Canada’s premier circus act needs no introduction. Cirque du Soleil has been entertaining audiences worldwide for over 30 years. Through its ability to constantly inspire, innovate, and engage, the company has completely transformed the entertainment industry.

Now the leading entertainment brand is helping to transform the corporate retreat experience through its Experiential Learning Program. “The program is aimed at mid- and large-sized companies that are ripe for change and know they need to shift their perspective,” says Patrick Corneau, Cirque’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “It recognizes that companies are often experts in their domain, but may need something to challenge their biases, stimulate their creativity, or just expose them to new ways of thinking.”

Sparking creativity amongst business professionals

The Experiential Learning Program lets participants experience the day-to-day operations of a touring circus company and witness first-hand how the Cirque team turns a concept they’ve dreamed up into reality. The program includes several different types of experiential learning, including workshops, conferences, backstage tours, and group activities with the show’s creators and marketing team.

“Participants may learn about an artistic director’s creative process, framework, and key lessons,” says Corneau. “They can then use these same techniques to brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, and spark creativity within their own employee teams.” Or they can engage with Cirque’s business leaders on some of the company’s core competencies, such as operational excellence, employee engagement, and customer experience, allowing them to discover new ways to develop these competencies within their own organizations.

A company that recently participated is Google. “We’ve already started to work together in a more creative way,” says Torrence Boone, the Vice President of Global Agency Sales and Services at Google. “We’ve had to think on our feet and try new challenges, and those are all great things that build a solid team.”

In the spirit of circus performing, the Experiential Learning Program encourages fun and playfulness. “Though we are certainly business-oriented, we allow ourselves to engage in what we call ‘meaningful play,’ as we think it’s critical to being able to learn and think differently,” says Corneau. Recent participant Lila Pla Alemany, a Global Agency Strategy Manager at Google, agrees: “You have to be playful if you want to be creative.” Meaningful play activities may include exploring different ways to brainstorm, appearing on stage, or engaging in role play.

Most of all, it’s about stepping out of the familiar day-to-day office environment and into a highly creative one. “This type of learning transcends what employees would get in a traditional classroom, conference room, or meeting room setting,” says Corneau. “The idea is to get people to step out of their comfort zones and recognize their own talents.”

Flexible and customizable options

Whether celebrating a company anniversary, the signing of a major client, a business breakthrough, or simply team building, Cirque offers an à la carte menu of packages. These range from half days to full days to extended learning sessions, which fully immerse participants in Cirque’s corporate and creative world over several days. The packages are flexible and customizable to the needs of the client, and each comes with a ticket to Cirque’s travelling VOLTA show.

Cirque is encouraging companies to check them out. “We’d like to see people break away from their desktop for a while and come work with us under the Big Top,” says Corneau.