“If the work you do doesn’t excite you, if it doesn’t make you feel something, then it’s a tall order to expect that it will do the same for someone else.” — Srinivas Rao
What does a book on creativity have to do with business anyway? Everything, as it turns out. As anyone who has run a successful business knows, you need to come up with a few creative solutions every day in order to survive and thrive in the marketplace.
While most business people would not ordinarily read a book on creativity to help improve their market share, Srinivas Rao’s book, An Audience of One, should be the exception to that rule. His book provides great ways to find your own or your business’s unmistakable voice.
In a world where you need to be unique to stand out in the market, Rao has become an expert in what makes people (and thereby companies) unique. He has carved out a niche for himself as a thought leader on creativity, especially in the art of uniqueness or what he calls being “unmistakable,” as the host of the podcast The Unmistakable Creative.
In his previous book, Unmistakable: Why Only Is Better Than Best, Rao showed readers how creative people and companies who created products and services that were completely unique effectively had no competition. These unique voices would always be in demand because they were the only one who could create that particular product or service. For example, there are many amusement parks but only one Disney, and you can only get the Disney experience there.
In An Audience of One, Rao returns with concrete advice on how you can follow your own vision. The main idea he supports is that in order to find a large audience for your work (product, or service), you need to do something that pleases you first—not some unknown audience. What Rao is really talking about here is something familiar to businesses: vision, passion, and mission. If you don’t believe in what your company is doing, it’s very hard to convince others your product or service is worth the investment.
The bulk of the book covers how you can develop your unique voice by listening to yourself, your environment, and to others. Part “how to” guide and part “motivation” manual, Rao intersperses advice and examples with quotes from original voices such as David Bowie, Brene Brown, and Andy Warhol.
Each chapter ends with suggested activities and exercises to help you find your strengths and to improve your creative environment. Some are simple suggestions like writing down lessons you have learned in your life or taking time out to refresh, while others are more involved such as cross-training in your job to stimulate creative ideas.
For those who have read books on the creative process or how to make successful habits, you will find some of the content familiar. Though, for even those experienced readers, there are still new ideas to help stimulate the process, such as the idea of “tolerations.” Tolerations are things in life like broken down furniture, clothes with holes, and outdated computer programs. Rao suggests removing and replacing these annoying things, which will improve your focus and clarity.
While the whole book has great advice on the creative process, the chapter on “Listening to Your Environment” is especially useful for business owners in creating spaces and places for themselves and their employees to find their unique creative voice. The section on the environment, like the book, is well researched by Rao and his co-writer Robin Dellabough and gives suggestions for keeping your workplace organized, eliminating digital distractions, and increasing your activation energy to get tasks done. Choosing to use just one of these ideas will justify your return on investment in this book.
Overall, the book is entertaining, smartly paced, and full of good ideas for those who are looking for a few of them. If you’re a savvy CEO or bright business person, you’ll find value in learning a few more ways to stimulate creativity in your life and your workplace.