Happy New Year! By posting this third blog on dyslexia, I already feel 2017 is getting off to a good start …
We are all familiar with the Marvel Comic superheroes (Dr Strange, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Spiderman, to name but a few) – each with their own superpower. I wonder if it’s time to rethink our view of dyslexia and focus less on what dyslexic people can’t do and more on what they can do. Yes, I am actually suggesting that we consider dyslexia as a superpower!
In a future blog [probably entitled the ‘Dyslexic Safari’], I will consider whether dyslexia is why the human species has prospered. Anyway back to mere superpowers. In my experience, I have noticed dyslexics appear to be able to deal with complexity. In fact, not just complexity but dynamic complexity – where a myriad of events move with abnormal pace.
This ability seems to comprise three capabilities particularly prevalent in dyslexics: i) seeing patterns, ii) seeing objects and iii) seeing shapes. Combining these capabilities with calmness [I will comeback to that in the future] and you have, in my view, a dyslexic superpower!
I have noticed these capabilities in myself and other dyslexics. The easiest way to explain these is through examples:
- Patterns. This is all about being able to see the wood for the trees or the big picture. Nowhere is this more true than with complex business information systems. I once received an early Sunday morning call from a friend whose multimillion pound distribution company had switched to a new computer system and despite the best efforts of the project team could not get customers orders picked and dispatched. After just 4 days the situation had reached crisis point – no orders dispatched equals no company! “Would I mind looking into the problem?” In fairness, I wasn’t going in cold – I had implemented several stock handling information systems in my time. I spent 30 minutes walking around the office and warehouse talking to members of the project team, warehouse staff and the system provider. Using the wood for the trees analogy, there appeared to be two trees that needed felling to get orders moving through the system … i) electronically transferring all stock from deep storage to the picking faces and ii) changing a parameter which allowed for negative allocated stock. This did the trick and 100s of orders appeared on the handheld devices … we were back in business!
- Objects. In an increasingly complex digital world where the amount of information we have to deal with is growing exponentially, we gladly turn to objects or things which help us navigate. Two examples readily spring to mind – firstly, Google Web Search (launched internationally in 2000) and secondly, the Apple iPod Classic (launched in 2001). They both provided a simple interface to information – the former through a webpage and the latter a wheel. With the iPod, Steve Job designed a physical object which set a course which brought us the iPhone and iPad. Impressed? Have you ever seen a 3 year old child pick up an iPad and within seconds starting to access their favourite apps? Steve Jobs was dyslexic.
- Shapes. Imagine walking in the mountains, and on returning home, being able to recall and describe the terrain of your whole journey. This ability to see in 3D is exceptional and provides opportunities for a host of applications. Many people can use a map and compas to navigate on a walk but can’t simply look at an OS map and convert it into 3D shapes in their mind. Can you imagine how useful this ability would be for an architect or builder? Richard Rodgers, brought us the Pompidou Centre, Millennium Dome and European Court of Human Rights building, is dyslexic.
Which organisations wouldn’t want to recruit staff with these superpowers?
The age of the dyslexic is here!