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How Creative Thinking Helped Cirque du Soleil Scale (2023)

Creativity is the secret ingredient for Daniel Lamarre’s two-decade-long run as Cirque du Soleil’s CEO. Under Daniel’s management, Cirque du Soleil went from a budding circus company based in Montreal to an international entertainment empire. 

Now holding the title of executive vice chairman of the organization, Daniel credits creativity as the key ingredient to long-term success and profitability. Ahead, he shares what he’s learned, to help new entrepreneurs inject creativity into any business.

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Finding a symbol for your business mission

When Daniel left the television industry and joined Cirque du Soleil more than two decades ago, he viewed himself as a creative in the business community—but the Cirque du Soleil team didn’t buy it.

In an effort to inject fun, silliness, and creativity into Daniel’s day to day, founder Guy Laliberté had a clown follow Daniel throughout his day. That experience is so significant to Daniel that he urges other founders and business owners to find their own version of a clown and keep it close.

Mr. Fleur, a character from Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria show.
As a symbolic reminder of creativity and Cirque du Soleil’s mission, Daniel Lamarre was assigned a clown that followed him throughout his day at the start of his Cirque career. Cirque du Soleil

“I always say to people, [you] don’t have to hire a clown,” says Daniel. “But you should think about a symbol so your employees can remember what they stand for. And in our case, we stand for entertainment and creativity.” 

Embedding creativity into the work environment 

Close to four decades since its inception, Cirque du Soleil still calls Montreal home. Its headquarters is carefully designed to incubate creativity. “That’s why in our building, you will see a lot of artistic pieces to remind people what we do. We’re artists,” Daniel shares. “I suggest to other companies to make sure that the nature, the core of what you do, is really present in your day-to-day life.” 

Two performers dispensed from the ceiling by their hair perform in the latest Cirque du Soleil show, ECHO.
The performances aren’t the only place where creativity shows up—it’s also present in the workplace. Cirque du Soleil

Another aspect of how Cirque du Soleil works that remains a constant is the cross-pollination of teams that invites all employees to be part of the creative process. 

“It doesn’t matter if you work in HR, finance, or legal—the studios are open every day,” says Daniel. “Rather than taking your coffee break at a cafeteria, you might want to go and watch our acts rehearsing a new show.” 

Seeking partnerships to foster creativity 

ForCirque du Soleil, being creative also means joining forces with others and stepping out of big-top tents into new territories. 

Daniel reflects on his first time meeting The Beatles and their estate: “I remember Paul looking at us and said, ‘What’s the pitch?’ And our answer was, ‘There is no pitch. You are a creative force. We are a creative force. We’re here to see what we can do together that you cannot do by yourself, and we cannot do by ourselves, but where we need partners.’” 

A group of performers during the number “Twist and Shout” from The Beatles LOVE.
Working with other creative forces has allowed Cirque du Soleil to achieve synergistic end results like tue The Beatles LOVE show that the entertainment group cannot achieve alone. Cirque du Soleil

One of the new areas that Cirque du Soleil entered recently is multimedia. During COVID-19 outbreaks, new digital experiences allowed Cirque to connect with its audiences while in-person shows were put on hold. 

Cirque Connect, a network showcasing the brand’s shows and content, was a massive success. “Every week, a new piece of content from Cirque du Soleil is released. So in the 16 months of broadcasting, we have reached more than 70 million people around the world,” Daniel says. 

Looking to the future, Cirque du Soleil plans to carry this creativity to even more avenues. “We just launched recently with Roblox, a new game for kids. We also have some TV production in the making right now,” shares Daniel. “It’s all a part of the 360-experience for our customers.” 

To hear more on Cirque du Soleil’s connection to Montreal and its journey to global entertainment empire, listen to Daniel’s full interview on Shopify Masters.

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