Circus bow


• Illustrates the improv practise of accepting mistakes.
• Building trust
• Encourages risk taking and creating a safe climate.


In a circle participants each get a chance to step forward, say “I failed” and bow.  After each bow the rest of the participants give a warm round of applause.

Time: 10 min

Number of participants: Any (for larger groups, or where participants seem cautious and tense , divide them in smaller circles or in pairs)

Game flow:

Have the participants stand in a circle.  Tell them that everyone will get the chance to step forward into the circle, then say anything in the line of “I made a mistake” or “I failed” and then give a big bow.  The rest of the group then give a round of applause.


If the group is very comfortable with each other let them share a real mistake or failure.   When sharing is personal and authentic it paves the way to vulnerability and this enhances experiences immensely.

This exercise is called circus bow, because whenever a trapeze artist makes a mistake and falls down into the net, he will make a summersault out of the net and bow towards the audience as if that was exactly what was supposed to happen.

This exercise may seem silly in writing, but try it and see what surprising results you get.  Remember in order to be brilliant you have to risk being foolish.

Debrief questions:

• How did it make you feel being applauded for stating that you made a mistake?
• How did it feel to applaud the others?
• What can we learn from this exercise?
• How can we help each other to feel safe to take risks?

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