Is Cirque du Soleil the iPhone or the Seiko of Circus?

Disruptive Innovation
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Rick Mueller
Professor, United States

Is Cirque du Soleil the iPhone or the Seiko of Circus?

An article about the Cirque du Soleil I recently read made me wonder whether we should think of Cirque du Soleil as the iPhone or the Seiko of Circus…

Let’s take a look first at the difference between the iPhone and a (Seiko) quartz watch: Given that the quartz watch forced the Swiss to relinquish their dominance in timepieces (fortunately there wasn’t anything to keep them from moving into the jewelry market) - one might think of the quartz watch as Disruptive. But while quartz was clearly Disruptive to the Swiss watch industry, was it also Disruptive in the sense conveyed through Christensen’s observations?

I would submit that with QUARTZ, the basic timekeeping paradigm did not change - quartz simply improved the ability to keep accurate time for those who would be wearing and using a watch anyway. As such, it should not have been too much of a surprise when shortly thereafter cell phones (the old fashioned kind) were able to handily displace the wristwatch from being the dominant means of telling time, whether someone was wearing a watch or not.

The IPHONE on the other hand, being apps-driven and socially oriented, created a market for the Apple version of the pocket PC among a great number that did not previously depend on mobile access to data - and because it had a phone function that worked well enough to keep the user from having to carry a second device, it displaced prior products and producers that previously dominated the industry. In this case, great cellular handsets became replaced by devices that were relatively poor as handsets, which is what Disruptive Innovation was named for in the first place.

So then is CIRQUE DU SOLEIL simply a better circus and thus not really a disruptive innovation at all, or is it something other than a circus that is (or will) replace and perhaps even re-establish the circus in a different format – or are we simply being distracted by products with similar names that have nothing to do with each other and never will?

  Ted Nagengast
Management Consultant, United States

What Once Was is no Longer

Cirque du Soleil was a disruptive innovation when it first came out and it did reinvent the category because of the creative way it merged traditional circus acts with elaborate sets, costumes and mus...

  otacilio moreira
CEO, Brazil

What Once was Disruptive Innovation no Longer is

I fully agree with Ted. Nowadays it isn't innovation anymore. But, don't forget that real innovators (differently from followers and laggards) are always working strategically to keep up their innova...

  Guillermo Aldunate
CxO / Board, Chile

Cirque du Soleil Resembles Seiko

@Ted Nagengast: concise and clear, Ted says it all. Cirque du Soleil was very innovative on 2000, but has no more to offer in 2015, and their shows certainly have not defined a radical new concept In ...

  Uche Ugorji
Manager, Nigeria

Fresh and Innovative

Well, I beg to differ a little bit. The circus isn’t a popular entertainment piece here in Nigeria, which is said to have a population of over 170 million people. But the majority of those that are fa...

  Germaine Salvador
Professor, Philippines

Cirque du Soleil was a Disruptive Innovation

Cirque du Soleil was a disruptive innovation, so were Seiko and the iPhone. But as any disruptive innovation, it becomes mainstream or the norm, as consumers get used to these offerings and competitor...

  Miguel Fernandes

Cirque du Soleil not Disruptive

I guess disruptive innovation, by definition, has to create a new market, it does not just show up at the margins of existing products and services. From that point of view I wouldn’t label CdS as di...


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