The Greatest Show on Earth!

Just Closed Forever!

Last week the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed down for good.

This circus was older than baseball, it was older than most things you may know of and hold near and dear to your heart.

The end of the circus is a bit sad, but we can also learn a few things. One of the things we learned is that there are some great lines in business and personal use that have entered the common vernacular that came from the circus. I have listed them below as indented phrases and followed by “Things we learned from the circus”

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was founded 146 years ago.

If you never made it to their circus you missed a piece of Americana.

Yes, the “circus” had gotten a bad rap in the last few years for how they take care of animals. I’m sure there was some truth to that, but I don’t want to argue those points here. I’m not trying to discount anything or any claims that were made. But, I want to point out … the circus was an innovator.

They had to be. They moved every week. They had a literal menagerie of people and animals to care for, feed, clothe, and provide shelter. If you think about it … The circus might just be the original logistics company.

Which is effectively what Starbucks, Costco, UPS and FedEx are today. They are logistics companies that happen to serve coffee, food, and products with an ever-increasing eye on efficiency.

The Innovation Circus

While you may not think of a traditional circus as being all that innovative the fact is they had to innovate in many, many ways – from the acts and all the efforts to support them, to the design of The Big Top itself, to the flow and logistics of everything … every week to make it happen … and it had to happen seamlessly.

The circus, even back when it started almost 150 years ago, was a giant logistical operation.

Hold your horses – Things we learned from the circus

Think about it. Imagine getting train loads of people, animals, and materials for The Big Top and everything else that made the circus go to a different city every week.

Not to mention all the permits for the fields or parking lots where they needed to set up; and for all the other things they needed in each city; not the least of which was labor, but they also needed to make sure food was available for their performers, their animals, and for the adoring fans.

The Modern Circus

The Montreal based Cirque du Soleil changed everything about the way a modern circus is perceived. They conceived of a new way to create a circus with all human performers. They Innovated!

And, if you’ve been to Las Vegas or many other large cities around the world you may have seen a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The show must go on! – Things we learned from the circus

This was a stroke of genius in innovation just when the “circus industry” needed a change. There was a shift from focusing on beasts of burden and other wildlife acts to feats of strength, balance and flexibility within the human species.

Innovation is Everywhere

It has become a way of life that disruption is everywhere. Some might say the circus industry was ready and ripe for disruption. This is not necessarily the same kind of disruption that we have seen with Uber or Airbnb, but it is no less innovative and life-changing.

This was one of the last nomadic tribes running around the country – Things we learned from the circus (source: CBS)

Your Innovation Impact

As you think about your career and the impact you will make Think about the circus and how a 150-year-old institution was slowly changed and eventually went out of existence. Along the way the circus changed acts – beyond the tradition high wire and trapeze acts that thrilled us all they also added motorcycles in a giant ball, and freestyle BMX, and other things to entrance a new and more fickle audience. The world changed and the circus tried to change with it.

The traditional circus may be dead or at least dying, but there is room for innovation. Look for those gaps and seek ways to innovate … whether you are working in a circus or a circus-like environment.

I’m not suggesting that in order to stand out in your career that you focus on ending an industry, but I am suggesting that you consider what the future will hold and what people want. Then consider ways to adapt.

Throw your hat in the ring! – Things we learned from the circus

As you graduate to your next engagement, your next project, your next line of thinking … consider the circus.

  • Consider the Things we Learned from the Circus.
  • Consider what you can learn from The Greatest Show on Earth and from The Modern Circus.
  • Consider what you will change, adjust, or otherwise adapt to build something great, to build something memorable, to build something that can last for 150 years.

From humble beginnings and grand intentions… The greatest show on earth can be built … again!

Will you be the builder? And, What will you build?