According to research from Cass Business School in London dyslexia in entrepreneurs occurs at twice the rate found in the general population. They uncovered this by screening entrepreneurs for their research. Their findings, depending on how you measure entrepreneurial behaviour, could mean that there are at least 300,000 entrepreneurs in the UK (see Appendix 1 of our research report In Their Element for a discussion on this calculation).
But how many of these 300,000 know that they are dyslexic? The answer sadly is likely to be very few. Some of this group will have completed their education in a less-enlightened period when dyslexia was barely heard of or dismissed as myth. Others will be what the authors of The Dyslexic Advantage describe as “stealth” dyslexics: a group who “have problems so subtle…that they evade early detection and often only come to attention later for problems with writing or underperformance” (Eide & Eide, 2011:21).
So as an entrepreneur what is wrong with not knowing you are dyslexic?
All leading entrepreneurs agree that self-awareness is key to becoming successful; Steven Teo in his getentrepreneurial.com blog is one of many to confirm this. However some adults with dyslexia face self-awareness challenges due to differences in their metacognitive awareness. This is ‘thinking about thinking’ and is important for learning skills in a short space of time. Knowing all you can about how you best acquire knowledge and skills is crucial to the self-awareness questions entrepreneurs must ask themselves, such as:
- What is my goal?
- How am I doing?
- Was I efficient?
So some entrepreneurs with dyslexia would benefit greatly from finding out what they don’t yet know about their approaches to learning. This then allows them to build schemas to use when faced with situations requiring rapid learning.
There may also be a lack of awareness of the reasons behind the difficulties they experience in very specific business areas, such as time management, organization, fast comprehension of written texts or processing speech in noisy environments. Rather than being the result of a natural tendency to be slow, or in the case of dealing with background noise being socially aloof, they could instead be the signs of dyslexia. Making that link is crucial to finding an effective solution.
Some of this group will also be unaware of the advantages that 'dyslexic thinking' gives them in aspects of business. Others are likely to be aware that they have talents, but not how they can be developed and trusted. What can follow for some is low self-belief and confidence in the power of their talents such as visual thinking, or the ability to see innovative solutions to problems that most other people miss completely. These are valuable business assets and there is much to be gained by unpacking these strengths to allow them to be properly understood and harnessed to achieve positive outcomes.
So if you want to be a successful entrepreneur you must understand your dyslexia - know it well and it will serve you well.
Jan Halfpenny writes, conducts research and trains organisations and individuals on dyslexia and business.
Research on dyslexic entrepreneurs: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs