Category Archives: Kostya Kimlat

Want to Wow at Work? 3 Secrets From The Business Magician

By Kostya Kimlat

Have you ever done something difficult at work, but made it look easy? Solved a problem, helped a client or negotiated a deal in a way that astounded your colleagues? Felt amazing, right? Inspiring delight and wonder is powerful, even addicting. It’s what drives magicians to do what they do and why people love them for it.

What most people don’t realize about magic shows, though, is that it’s not all props and performance. To truly surprise and delight, a seasoned magician uses his or her mind. And you don’t have to run away with the circus, or even learn a single magic trick, to apply magical thinking to your business or career.

I’ve been a magician for over twenty years, specializing in teaching businesses the secrets of magic and how those insights can improve communication, sales and client relationships. As a speaker, trainer and facilitator, I teach that magic is a rich source of thinking tools. Those tools apply to any organization and any industry, but they also apply to individuals. You can make magic work for you, at work.

To prove it, I’m going to share a few magicians’ secrets that can help you improve your career in the following areas:

  • Innovation and lateral thinking
  • Perception management
  • Social intelligence
Being more magical at work isn’t about deception or manipulation; its about being better at how you communicate and collaborate. Click To Tweet

Innovation and lateral thinking

Magicians have always had to work backwards: They come up with a surprising effect and then devise a means to accomplish it. They must consider all mental, visual and physical tools available. That’s why magicians were the first to employ mirrors, magnets, and electromagnets, and why they are often a decade or two ahead of the mainstream in using new technologies or scientific principles to surprise their audiences.

And to continue astonishing people, a magician can’t stick with the same tactics. Their tricks must constantly evolve, but—here’s the key—their approach to developing new material stays the same: Magicians start the creative process by acting as if anything is possible. They don’t limit themselves.

To be creative and innovative, you have to be able to see existing resources as more than they are, you have to seek methods and technologies unknown to you (and maybe to others). You can’t do any of those things when you decide preemptively that any end goal—a new product, service, client or corporate structure – is outside the range of what’s possible.

Magicians start the creative process by expanding that range to include anything and everything. That mindset is the takeaway that you can apply in the workplace, whether you directly manage thirty people or write code for a living.

Perception Management

However creative, no magician’s trick is complete with only physical tools and technologies. To fool someone, a magician has to do something the other person doesn’t know, recognize or perceive. Knowing and managing an audience’s perceptions are what make the trick.

Similarly, to be the most magical person in your office, it’s not enough to just be creative. You must also accurately understand what people around you perceive – what they believe and expect.

If you’re going to communicate better, produce better, manage better or sell better, you need to know what others see. How? The Fortune 500 companies I consult with might perform surveys of thousands, but you can collect this information easily (and much more quickly) if you’re OK with informal feedback.

Before an important meeting with a client, your boss or employees, perform your own survey. Do some digging on what your investors believe about your company before you present. Find out what delighted or disappointed at the last board meeting—and why.

Simply taking the time to do this will put you ahead. Do the work beforehand to more deeply understand what others believe they know, how they see you and what they are looking for, and you’ll be able to deliver and even dazzle by going beyond expectations.

Social Intelligence

Really successful magicians aren’t just good at tricks. They’re great entertainers. They pull people in. They enchant. Why? They read people in a way others don’t. They take our second secret a step further. Perception management—the ability to understand how people perceive you and what you do—is a skill that can be learned, developed and refined. Practice taking others’ perspective long enough and you’ll develop a powerful tool: social intelligence.

Magicians influence imaginations and suspend reality, but influencers of all types practice the kind of empathy that rises to the level of social intelligence. Being a great thinker doesn’t just mean having great thoughts; it’s understanding and anticipating the thoughts of others. It’s knowing how they think and feel and making informed guesses on how they will react. It’s about being ready instead of reacting in panic. And you can do the same thing at the office.

Constantly assess what those above, below and beside you are perceiving, what they expect and how they feel. Do this not just during crucial moments, but at every point of interaction. Do it well enough and it will be what sets you apart. It will become your magic, your own wow factor.

What being magical at work really means

Now, I realize magicians are known for fooling people. That’s part of the performance and the fascination. A magician is, as Carl Germain wrote, the only one honest about his lying. But magic is not just a matter of technical, mechanical or visual trickery. Magicians see people differently. That’s my core message: Learning to Think Like a Magician™ can help you avoid misperceptions and miscommunication by more deeply considering others.

Being more magical at work isn’t about deception or manipulation; its about being better at how you communicate and collaborate. And you don’t need any cards or wands to create magical experiences.

With these three magician’s secrets, you can amaze your co-workers by bringing innovation and lateral thinking to your job, wow them by anticipating what they’re going to think or say at the next meeting and astonish them with your masterful ability to connect and communicate with anyone you meet.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service. For more information about Kostya Kimlat, please visit www.KostyaKimlat.com

Teaching Employees to Execute Customer Service Magic: The Four Aces to an A+ Rating

By Kostya Kimlat


Kostya KimlatA sale, like a great magic trick, occurs inside the customer’s mind. And it is there where it is replayed, remembered, and redefined continually after. The mind is the final battleground. Because magicians are masters of perception, they understand how to get into the heads of their prospects better than anyone else. That’s why the principles of magic can be so helpful in a business environment.

The following four tools and techniques are used in magic to create the perception of magical experiences. These four words begin with the letter ‘A.’ So we’ll call each of them the proverbial “Ace Up The Sleeve.” They’re not just a part of a winning hand. When executed together, they are a part of a winning strategy of customer service.

Here are the four aces from a magician’s tool set of perception:

  • What assumptions are your customers making?
  • How are you acknowledging them?
  • How are you building anticipation to heighten emotions?
  • And what are you doing to surprise, delight, and ultimately astonish your customers.

1. Assumptions: People are constantly making assumptions. Magicians use the assumptions that the human brain naturally makes “against” you.  Assumptions are the reason why it’s so fun for magicians to fool other magicians. That’s because a prepared magician will know what methods his magician friend knows, and use those very assumptions to pull off his trick in a way his friend won’t expect, leaving him dumbfounded.

Assumptions impact every interpersonal interaction and can be helpful or hurtful. First, consider what assumptions you are making about your customers. Are you assuming they like you, your brand or your product? Or are you assuming they’re skeptical of you?

Second, think about what assumptions they are making of you. People perceive what they expect, so before you can deliver on any customer service, you need to get into the mind of your customer, client or patient, and understand what they’re assuming is going to happen when they interact with you.

Perception is a two-way street: people see you and you see them. It is therefore imperative to first become aware of the assumptions that you make about others. Then it’s equally as important to consider how others see you. This will help you have an influence over the impact of perception on your relationships.An excellent magician will not just bring a trick to its successful conclusion—he will go an extra step. Click To Tweet

2. Acknowledgment: A human interaction can only be successful if the customer’s assumptions are acknowledged.  For example, the sophisticated magician who encounters a spectator oozing with negative assumptions about magic must first acknowledge those assumptions in order to move forward.

“You look skeptical,” the magician might say. “How about I show you the fastest trick I do, and if you enjoy it, I can come back later and show you more?”

Acknowledgment communicates authenticity. For businesses and brands, it can be the saving mea culpa that redeems a company from a mistake. For individuals, it is a way of clearing the air before being able to move forward in a relationship.

What are the assumptions—true or false—your prospective customers most frequently make about you or your business?  What can you say or do to acknowledge each of those assumptions, in order to proceed with the relationship?

3. Anticipation: Once you’ve identified your customer’s assumptions and then acknowledged them, you’re ready to build anticipation.

Studies have shown that your mind is in a constant state of anticipation, making predictions about the future, and then rewarding or punishing you for being right or wrong. This is what makes magic so much fun to watch—your brain is constantly making predictions about how a trick might end. And when your brain guesses correctly, it’s rewarded handsomely.

There are many ways a magician might increase your anticipation levels. Sometimes, he’ll tell you exactly how the trick will end (“all of the cards will disappear in 3…2…1…”).  Sometimes, he might even create anticipation through tension, by feigning an error (“I swear this worked earlier…”)—before successfully completing an effect to the delight of the audience.

Master magicians know how to raise the level of anticipation—and ultimately the astonishment that is about to come. Creating anticipation is an ultimate tool of perception, a masterful tactic that can create intrigue and heightened emotions, leading to a better payoff in the end.

Like a magician, you can raise anticipation levels in a sales interaction by painting a picture of how the customer’s future might look. What can you say to get a customer excited about a future payoff? What emails could you send to heighten this sense of anticipation? Is there a way you can create anticipation through generating tension?

Think about how you can build, build, build anticipation so that when a customer finally makes her purchase, she feels like it’s a cause for celebration!

4. Astonishment: Have you ever been amazed by a magician? Have you seen or experienced something that made you take pause? Your eyes widened, your pupils dilated, your mouth got dry. For a brief moment you couldn’t explain what just happened. This positive and pleasantly surprising moment has an eerie way of zapping your brain like nothing else does. Magicians refer to this as the moment of astonishment.

Excellent customer service comes down to how well you’re able to astonish your customer. Sure, a customer might have assumptions that you may have acknowledged, and you might even deliver on what she anticipated would happen.

But unless you go an extra step, providing something she previously thought unlikely or impossible, she will not walk away feeling astonished.

Astonishment taps into your customer’s emotional brain, and it’s in the emotional brain that brand loyalty becomes rooted and repeat business generated. Astonishment is what leads to five star Yelp reviews and unsolicited Facebook posts singing your glories.

Just like an astonished audience member might excitedly request that a magician “do that again,” or demand a magician share a performance—”show that to my friend!”—your customers will want to experience your business again and share it with friends if you leave them truly astonished.

So how can you add moments of astonishment to your interactions? What surprises can you plan? How can you take things a step beyond meeting their anticipated expectations and deliver something they wouldn’t have imagined possible?

Stack the deck to win the game:

A competent magician will understand the assumptions his audience is making about him. A good magician will acknowledge them. A great magician will build so much anticipation that the audience creates an expectation for the successful conclusion of a trick. But an excellent magician will not just bring a trick to its successful conclusion—he will go an extra step, not only delivering on the promise, but exceeding it and surprising the audience.

Excellent magicians have all four “aces” up their sleeves. You don’t have to be a magician to use these tools, you just have to Think Like A Magician™. Teach these tactics to your employees, and they’ll be masters at delivering magical customer service.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service.

Well Suited: A Practical Approach to Understanding Personalities

By Kostya Kimlat

Kostya KimlatWe’ve been dividing people into four personality types, styles, or patterns since the time of Plato. These days, online personality tests are everywhere. After a number of fun questions you can discover which animal, shape, color or celebrity you’re aligned with. Or take a serious personality test to help identify your management, leadership, or communication style.

If you really want to get to know yourself, you can take a more scientific assessment that not only tells you who you are, but what drives you, motivates you and how people can best work with you. You’ll get thirty-five pages of autobiographical information, which can help you understand yourself.

And that’s great, but when you’re meeting someone for the first time—as you’re exchanging greetings, smiles or handshakes, paying attention and being present—it’s rather difficult to identify them and put them into one of sixteen categories off the top of your head.

And no one ever brings you their thirty-five page assessment and hands it to you like a manual and says, “Here’s who I am and how to deal with me.”If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. Click To Tweet

If you’re in sales or customer service, reading your audience is critical to your professional success. This ability has long been a secret of the magician’s success. Magicians are astutely skilled in the fine art of perception and recognizing the individual personalities that comprise their audience.

Next time you watch a close-up magician, pay attention to the audience members and see how they react. There are generally four types of reactions:

  • There’s the excited participant, ready to be blown away by anything.
  • There’s the passive viewer, who is enjoying the show, hoping that they don’t get picked.
  • There’s the take charge A-type that wants to take control of the situation.
  • There’s the skeptical know-it-all who has to figure out the secret.

Now think of the four suits in a deck of playing cards and what images they bring to mind:

  • The Diamonds are shiny and exciting; they yearn to be seen and recognized.
  • The Hearts are compassionate and loving; they wish for everyone to get along.
  • The Spades are quick and strong; they want power and control.
  • The Clubs are very specific; they require attention to detail to be right.

The four suits perfectly align with the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Merrill-Wilson and the Helen Fisher systems:

  • Diamonds are: Expressive, Explorer, Influence
  • Hearts are: Amiable, Negotiator, Steadiness
  • Spades are: Driver, Director, Dominance
  • Clubs are: Analytical, Builder, Conscientiousness

Once you know which four personality styles align with which suits, you’ll want an easy system to identify which person is exhibiting the behaviors of which suit. To do that, you just need to pay attention to a person’s speed and temperature.

The Speed and Temperature of Suits: What’s amazing about the four suits of a deck of playing cards is that their color and shape connect to a person’s speed or temperature.

First, think of the color of the suits—red or black. When you meet people for the first time, if upon introducing yourself they are open and engaged, they are most likely a red suit—a warm Heart or a Diamond. If they are reserved or withdrawn—acting colder towards you—they are a Spade or Club.

Next, think of the shape of the suits. The Diamonds and Spades have sharp and pointy ends—they move fast and talk fast, just like their edges are fast to draw. They go for the straight line of the situation; they get to the sharp end of the point! So if someone you meet is moving and talking fast, they are a Diamond or a Spade.

Hearts and Clubs are round suits. These people can’t be rushed or pushed to making a decision. They need time. The best way to remember the Clubs is that this suit is very difficult to draw; it requires attention to detail to do it right. So people who are critical, detailed and disciplined—people who require being right—are Clubs.

See how easy it becomes? Just pay attention to how fast/slow and warm/cold someone is. With two questions you’ll have a strong sense of which suit best describes the personality.

  • Warm and Fast? Diamond
  • Warm and Slow? Heart
  • Cold and Fast? Spade
  • Cold and Slow? Club

If you’ve studied other personality evaluation systems you can overlay the four suits over the terms you already know. The four suits make memory recall easier, helping you speed up the entire identifying process. They are a shortcut for your mind.

Depending on your own personality, you may think that this is amazing, or this is all obvious to you. Maybe you’re curious how this will affect others, or maybe you’re ready to put thoughts into actions.

What Hand Were You Dealt? Reacting to the Unique Traits of Suits: If part of your life involves meeting new people, and you want to connect and communicate with them for business or social reasons, there’s nothing better than paying attention to people’s personalities. It provides the groundwork to approach and understand someone. No matter your type, here’s how you can give the people you encounter what they need:

  • If you meet a diamond, provide recognition and attention.
  • If you meet a heart, provide support and approval.
  • If you meet a spade, provide opportunities to take charge and make decisions.
  • If you meet a club, provide opportunities to be “right.”

A great magician provides each of the personalities exactly what they need. For example, he allows the to analyze whether it’s a regular deck of cards. He then lets the decide which card to select by authoritatively shouting “stop!” And he invites the on-stage to receive the attention and credit for seemingly making the magic happen. All the while, he leaves the alone to take pleasure in watching others enjoy themselves.

Once you’re aware of what each suit needs, you, too, can provide each person the right opportunities to thrive, just like a magician.

Shuffling It All Together: Many people have taken personality tests to tell them who they are. But very few people can instantly assess the personality style of someone they meet. Thanks to this magical system, you’re now equipped to do just that.

You don’t have to rack your brain to search for the right word to describe someone. The magician’s method of four suits is simple to learn and easy to use in the real world. When you’re in the trenches of a presentation or negotiation, meeting people and trying to understand them on the fly, utilize the four suits to identify personality types quickly and easily. And then, give them what their suit needs.

The goal is for you to eventually be able to identify the personality styles without even thinking about doing it. Mastering this skill will enable you to be more adaptive to your audience—just like a magician. That will go a long way to help you build that relationship or close that deal.

Kostya Kimlat is a keynote speaker and corporate magician who fooled Penn & Teller on their hit TV show, “Fool Us”. Kostya speaks to businesses about how to Think Like A Magician™ to improve sales and customer service.