Interview with Daniel Lamarre


He calls himself an “evangelist of creativity”. In his book L’équilibriste: performez grâce à votre créativité (2022), Daniel Lamarre looks back on the two decades of innovation that marked his role as Executive Director of Cirque du Soleil. This year, he is enthusiastically collaborating with the Factry.

What is your definition of creativity?

Creativity consists of developing a solution to an existing problem, or creating new products or services. In the case of Cirque du Soleil, it allows us to develop new shows. Creativity is the source of innovation, as demonstrated by Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. It led these entrepreneurs to innovate in their respective sectors.

Without creativity, no company or organization can survive. In finance, it is at the heart of relationships with employees, investors and bankers. Even more traditional industries such as law and accounting firms need to innovate to engage their troops and retain their clients. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t innovate, you’re going to get left behind. Kodak disappeared from the map because they denied that digital would eventually take over the entire market. It was a terrible denial, and we know the result today. At Cirque du Soleil, my fear was that someone would come up to me one day and say: “Ah, Cirque du Soleil was very good in the 2000s… But now, this company is much better…”

What means does Cirque du Soleil use to maintain this creativity?

Research and development plays a major role. We are constantly on the lookout for new ideas, technologies, artists, sets, musical trends, etc. People often tell us, “It’s easy for you to be creative, you’re a creative company. It’s true, it’s probably easier than elsewhere. Except that we could also rest on our laurels, and stop innovating.

That would be easy, but it wouldn’t last long. With each new show, the audience’s expectations are very high. We have to meet and exceed them. That’s why we have to keep the fire burning and keep challenging ourselves.

Daniel Lamarre Factry

How did you develop your own creativity?

I learned a lot from founding the public relations firm NATIONAL, working as president of the TVA network, and also from working with artists. But it was Cirque du Soleil that took me to another level. This mentality of not making any compromises, of taking our ideas further and further, even our crazy ideas, helped me in my transformation. Before, I was a fairly traditional businessman, I thought I had a full life. But that was nothing compared to what I’ve been living for the past 21 years!

At Cirque du Soleil, I had the chance to meet great creators like Guy Laliberté, Robert Lepage, Dominic Champagne and, later, James Cameron. I was able to observe how they go further because they allow themselves moments of reflection and are in a state of artistic flux. With them, I learned to be more creative in my professional and personal life.

In your book, you tell us that when you first started out, Guy Laliberté asked a clown to follow you around to diminish your “serious” side. Did this contribute to your transformation?

The clown in question was called Madame Zazou. She brought me a lot. She followed me everywhere and made fun of me during my work meetings with the employees. For me, she was more than a clown, she was a symbol.

I don’t recommend managers hire a clown, because they are not in this industry, but I do say: find a symbol that works for you, that reminds you every day of your reason for being. The raison d’être of Cirque du Soleil finance department is not finances, it’s the show. The raison d’être of its president is not to perform administrative tasks, but rather to create jobs in an environment where it is very difficult for artists to make a living.

Today, Cirque du Soleil allows more than 2,000 people to make a living from their passion. I prefer to think about that rather than just saying to myself, “I’m president of Cirque du Soleil.” We’ve created a pride and an ecosystem that inspires other creators. That’s how we went from a small troupe to a multinational company present in 450 cities on every continent.

Is Quebec creative?

Absolutely, and for two reasons. First, we are a French-speaking island immersed in an English-speaking sea. This is a fabulous opportunity, which forces us to be creative. The most significant examples are television and film: our distinctive language pushes us to do things differently. This is not the case in Toronto, where people only consume American content.

Second, Canada is a great place to be. Here, we employ people from 90 different countries. They feel at home here. Working for a Canadian company gives them confidence.

The strength of the language and the host country creates a buzz. That’s what makes us more creative than elsewhere.

What about the individual level?

We are all creative. Except that we don’t always cultivate our creativity. In the billing department, for example, we don’t have creative challenges every morning, but we can innovate on factors that influence the work: adopting new technologies, improving communication with colleagues, the relationship with the hierarchy, etc.

For that, everyone has to think and understand how creativity can help them have a fuller, more interesting life. Everyone has to stop and research the best procedures and ask themselves: what can I improve at my level?

I like to think that most people are open to new ideas. I am an eternal optimist.

In your book, you give a lot of advice to this effect. For you, creativity seems to be closely linked to human values.

You are right. I firmly believe that success does not come from the company, but from the individuals. With Cirque, I learned the importance of developing a common work. With us, there is no star. The star is the show.

Common strengths are at the heart of what we do. We don’t need to create a team spirit because here, it’s fundamental: we can’t do anything without each other! There is no show without a director, artists, musicians, costume designers and a casting team. In total, 20 to 25 disciplines are necessary for each new creation. We can gather up to 150 professionals!

The importance of team spirit is true in all companies, even if, unfortunately, it is not always recognized.

Why are you involved with the Factry today?

After my book was published, I decided to get involved with the Factry to help promote this school of creative sciences, which I love. I was very impressed by the work of the two co-founders, Marie [Amiot] and Hélène [Godin]. We share the same belief in the power of creativity. The release of my book allows us to collaborate and extend the actions of the Factry even further.

Now, every time I give a talk, I promote the Factry. We also plan to do one or two public events to promote the school. But above all, we are working on a more ambitious project: a training program that will aim to help companies be more creative. For managers, but also for employees who are aware that they could develop their career with the Factry’s creativity training. We plan to offer the workshop in the fall.

This company has managed to innovate in an exceptional way and this is an incredible achievement. It is with great pleasure that I will modestly contribute to it. I think this team deserves to be taken to the next level. I am convinced that it will happen.

My dream is to one day meet someone who will say, “I trained with you at the Factry, and this is what I achieved with it!” That’s all I wish for myself.

For two or three years, Daniel Lamarre will continue to hold an executive position at Cirque du Soleil, as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. This will ensure the transition to the new management.

Nathalie Schneider

Nathalie Schneider is a journalist specializing in the outdoors and adventure tourism and has a large number of field reports to her credit. She is an outdoor columnist for Le Devoir and occasionally for Radio-Canada radio. She is also interested in subjects related to society, art and the environment.

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