In the forthcoming EntrepreneurialStrengthsFinder , Gallup Press quotes business guru James Dyson talking about the components of the “magic formula” in business: creativity and innovation.
These are the two words most associated with a particular group of entrepreneurs, which includes Steve Jobs, Lord Sugar, Sir Richard Branson and one in every five entrepreneurs. They are the ones who are dyslexic in their thinking and learning styles: not writing much down, a bit forgetful, sometimes off on a tangent, but working at the cutting edge of creativity and innovation.
According to research by Prof. Julie Logan of Cass Business School in London, this group start significantly more businesses than their non-dyslexic counterparts, and employ more people too, which make their success vital to the national economy and wider society. Dyslexia, in some way shape or form, is linked to this creative business phenomenon, and backs up Gallup’s assertion that “great entrepreneurs are creative thinkers”.
Like every other vital economic factor, the more we know about dyslexia the more it can become our tool for good. This means understanding how to meet the needs of this group in the workplace. This is doubly important if James Dyson is right about the “magic”: if Merlin announced he was launching a new spell to bring prosperity to Camelot, and you knew he was a bit forgetful or could go off on a tangent, you’d want to check he had his spell book handy, his wand was polished and his cape was back from the dry-cleaners. The same pro-active attention is needed to facilitate dyslexia in entrepreneurs, because they just might possess the real world ‘magic’ the economy beyond Camelot needs to thrive and sustain recovery.
Gallup succinctly describe the interplay between creativity and business success, and when dyslexia is added as a third variable we see that there is a skew towards careers in particular sectors of industry. Chief among these are architecture, design and engineering, where around half of these professionals reflect the creative dyslexic profile. In contrast, less than one in twenty middle managers has reported enhanced creative skills.
This creative bias means that dyslexics are predictably over-represented in self-employment and the creative industries. The main points on this matter have been summarised in our 2012 review of global research into dyslexia and creative entrepreneurship: In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs.
Ironically, Gallup preface one of the enhanced skills of dyslexic entrepreneurs to readers with the phrase “a word of caution”:
“make sure to communicate your ideas and strategies to your team”.
Because dyslexic entrepreneurs in general grow up not responding to their formal education system’s narrow academic demands placed upon them, they have learned to become adept from an early age at engaging in team-building and collaboration in order to achieve practical success. This makes them natural communicators with a breadth of skills for motivating others to action. Talking to other people is generally not a cautious communication strategy for dyslexic entrepreneurs.
Gallup’s next piece of advice is a matter that dyslexic entrepreneurs do indeed have to be cautious about, though:
a “perceived lack of focus may hamper your chances of success”.
Focus is a common challenge for dyslexic entrepreneurs. Dyslexics typically jump from one topic to another in rapid succession, and this can indeed lead to “losing sight of the core” element of their endeavour, or at least be “perceived” to have done so by colleagues. Overcoming this means generating teamwork in order to focus on achieving project success, a further reason why advanced communication skills regularly develop within the ambitious dyslexic entrepreneur.
Gallup’s seven tips for Maximising Your Creative Thinker Talent are essential for all entrepreneurs, regardless of any learning difference. Two of them in particular are prominent matters with entrepreneurs who are dyslexic:
No. 2: “Using measurement to evaluate your ideas” is not a favourite way for dyslexics to get a handle on what is viable or not. The minute detail and nuanced discourse of a close inspection regime runs contrary to the ‘big picture’ thinking that dyslexics tend to engage with best. This is where the successful dyslexic entrepreneurial personality engages its effective delegation skills, bringing in specialists to handle forensic types of tasks and report their significance in the ‘big picture’ scenario.
No.6: “Mobilise resources to fuel your innovation process” is exactly the type of behaviour that arises as a result of the dyslexic entrepreneur’s superior skills in problem-solving to find solutions, then communicating these ideas and building a team to carry them out.
Although many potential young dyslexic entrepreneurs are capable of deploying these talents, very many of them do not even know that they are dyslexic in general, or that the way they think about doing business is different from 80% of other adults. People can only perform at their very best when they are in full possession of all the relevant information, and Gallup rightly concludes that: “understanding and acknowledging your inherent talents gives you the best chance of success”.
The possession of knowledge and understanding of dyslexia and what to do with it is not just the best chance of success with this group, but the whole key to unlocking it for greater good - without the need for a magic wand.
Jan is MD and Dyslexia Specialist at Halfpenny Development Ltd, which specialises in products to develop dyslexic advantage in business environments.
The company’s latest product is a short online training course ‘Understanding and Supporting Dyslexia in Business: Trainers, Coaches and Mentors’, helping all learning and development staff know how to train dyslexic learners by playing to this group’s learning strengths.