The following is a guest blog from freelance journalist, copywriter, PR and media communications professional Jasmine Comer. 

Just why are there so many dyslexic entrepreneurs? And what we can all learn from their way of thinking in Dyslexia Awareness Week (1-7 October)

What do Cath Kidston, Jo Malone and Anita Roddick all have in common?  They’re all hugely successful business women I hear you say. Well yes, that’s true. But they have something else that binds them – they’re all dyslexic.

Yet despite this they’ve managed to single handedly build multi-million-pound businesses. Struggling to read and write has not held these women back. Nor Steve Jobs or Alan Sugar.
So just why are so many entrepreneurs dyslexic? What gives them the edge in business over the rest of us?  Statistics show that around 20% of UK business self-starters are dyslexic, compared to 10% of the general public.  And astonishingly 40 % of self-made millionaires identify themselves as dyslexic, which is massively disproportionate. Maybe working for yourself is preferable to trying to fit into someone else’s business?

What they possess that non-dyslexics don’t is what UK charity Made by Dyslexia terms Dyslexic Thinking – dyslexic minds tend to think multi-dimensionally, so, using all their senses. If nurtured they can have higher than normal intelligence and extraordinary creative abilities. They’re naturally curious problem solvers who think creatively outside the box.  This makes dyslexic entrepreneurs exceptional at identifying solutions to problems, and in creating new ways to tackle challenges. Great skills in business, eh?

Jo Malone made a fortune from honing one skill in particular to compensate for inability to read and write.  “I’m a woman who’s dyslexic, can’t tell my left from my right. I can’t fill out a form on my own, and when I go into a bank, I have to ask someone to help me. But I use my sense of smell like my eyes and hands. It’s something that happens naturally to me, so I would look at what you’re wearing, and who you are, and I would be translating it back into smell’.

 So Jo took her “million dollar nose” and made a fortune creating a multi-million dollar fragrance empire. Creative, resourceful, resilient, dyslexic.

Similarly Agatha Christie (yes, the best-selling novelist of all time, surpassed only by Shakespeare and the Bible was dyslexic) developed her imagination due to the isolation she felt living with her disability. She was described as the “slow” one by her family, but it was this rich imagination that set her apart and ultimately sealed her place in literary history. 
Jo Malone

Kate Griggs, from Made by Dyslexia, firmly believes the onset of the merging of robotics and virtual reality, dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, will call for precisely the type of intelligence dyslexic people have in abundance: creativity, imagining, exploring, connecting and reasoning.
The British intelligence service now recognises their ability to analyse complex information in a “dispassionate, logical and analytical” way.  That’s why GCHQ recruits a higher than average number of dyslexic employees to decipher facts from patterns to combat terrorism.
There is talk of lessons in entrepreneurship for dyslexic school children in the US. “They’re hard wired for it”, says the wonderfully named dyslexic business woman Tiffany Sunday.

So far from being a “disability”, being dyslexic is actually a gift. Dyslexics have the skills for the future and the cards, it seems, are stacked in their favour. Or are they?

The success that Jo, Cath and Anita achieved is all the more remarkable when you consider that when they were at school there was much less support for dyslexia (if it was even diagnosed in the first place!) and much more stigma. They were pigeon holed for their disability as well as their sex. But I guess that’s where the resilience comes back in! Challenging those stereotypes and succeeding against the odds in a predominantly male arena.

Surely today it’s different though? Well, education funding has been slashed and SEN departments are cutting down. So, if a child’s condition is picked up at all, teachers are faced with limited funds with which to support them.

Not surprisingly UK dyslexic charities are calling for a change in the education system.  Made by Dyslexia believes that rather than taking brilliant dyslexic minds and squashing them into an education system that doesn’t fit, all children would benefit from being taught the skills of creativity, visualisation, problem solving and innovation.

Toddlers have these qualities in abundance but by the time they start secondary school much of it has gone by the wayside. Rote learning, excessive testing and league tables have removed much creativity from the curriculum. And the Government’s commitment to making GCSE exams tougher must be a concern to every parent of a dyslexic child.  Who then will lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

We’re going to need thinking outside the box more than ever in the 21st Century.  The world is crying out for people to look at it in a new way.  We should be harnessing the potential of dyslexic abilities, tapping into their brilliant minds, not focusing on their disabilities and erecting barriers.

In Dyslexia Awareness Week (1stto 7th October) we’d do well to remember the words of another notable dyslexic, Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

This blog was written by Guest Blogger, Jasmine Comer. Find her Linked In here:   

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