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

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Disruptive Innovation > Forum > Is Cirque du Soleil the iPhone or the Seiko of Circus?

Is Cirque du Soleil the iPhone or the Seiko of Circus?
Rick Mueller, Professor, United States, SIG Leader
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 CircusÖ

Letís 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 wasnít 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 Christensenís 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 Ė or are we simply being distracted by products with similar names that have nothing to do with each other and never will?

What Once Was is no Longer
Ted Nagengast, Management Consultant, United States, Member
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 music. However, it was still based on acrobatics, contortionists, clowns and strong men. Yes, it incorporated new technologies and artistry but it still used the same old circus paradigm, sans the animals. It has now lost all its original cache and when you look at how the Cirque has developed since those early days you begin to see that it is just following in the long traditional of offering the same old product with new and improved components. They've become boring.
Those of you familiar with the Kano model will recognize that the Cirque now only satisfies the spoken expectations of its customers. It no longer addresses the unspoken expectations; that's where true innovation lies. It is still a good product, just as the Seiko is still a good watch, but it is not creating anything new.

What Once was Disruptive Innovation no Longer is
otacilio moreira, CEO, Brazil, Member
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 innovative work.
Is it that they only satisfy the spoken expectations of customers or customers to that they raised the bar of their demand?

Cirque du Soleil Resembles Seiko
Guillermo Aldunate, CxO / Board, Chile, Member
@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 the way of making circus. In short, I would compare it with Seiko.

Fresh and Innovative
Uche Ugorji, Manager, Nigeria, Member
Well, I beg to differ a little bit. The circus isnít 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 familiar with it (the elite) only know the traditional circus acts.
I only got to know about Cirque du Soleil because I planned a brand engagement event that sought to bring them into the country. That didn't work out due to the short notice and budgetary constraint.
I stand that Cirque is both a disruptive innovation and a better circus act. Last year, a music artist contracted them for his show and it was recorded as the most creative and innovative show in the country ever. So, is Cirque du Soleil innovative and fresh? Oh YES! The iPhone has been widely accepted here and is seen as both a revolution and a status symbol. A game-changer, a new welcome development from the usual. A masterpiece.

Cirque du Soleil was a Disruptive Innovation
Germaine Salvador, Professor, Philippines, Member
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 competitors struggle to feed the market with similar products, some of which are marginally innovative.
Disruptive innovation is good only up to the point that it achieves its initial objective--to disrupt the marketplace. Once thatís done, the innovator has to think hard again. CdS, Seiko and Apple have to create another disruption to stay on top of their game! Just like any other brand or product--you can't stay the way you are for long. One has to continuously improve, continuously innovate, and then create a major disruption.

Cirque du Soleil not Disruptive
Miguel Fernandes, Manager, Member
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 wouldnít label CdS as disruptive because, in fact, like Seiko, it builds on the same "circus product" offered before.

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