Dyslexia Superpower: The System Entrepreneur (27/52)

The mission of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), of which I am a member (more on that in the next  blog), is to enrich society through ideas and action and their journal often includes suitably thought-provoking articles.

In 2017 Issue 1, Ian Burbidge argues for way to tackle the challenges faced by our public services is “to think like a system and act like an entrepreneur“. (Matthew Taylor (RSA Chief Executive) made a similar point in his 21st Century Enlightenment Revisited (2016) and System Thinking and Entrepreneurial Action (2017) articles). This is predicated on the sometimes unexpected consequences of shocks to society – or in system-talk, emergent properties. He gives the example of an increase in community spirit after a disaster and concludes that we need to recognise the inherent complexity of our world and develop an understanding of the bigger picture – of course, he really means big picture thinking (See – Time to see Dyslexia as a Superpower?) and seek flexible interactive responses which pinpoint and pursue opportunities –  of course, he really means entrepreneurial thinking. Hence the think like a system and act like an entrepreneur.

For me, this all points to the value of big picture thinking so evident in dyslexics and it is no surprise to me that entrepreneurial thinking should also be highlighted. Both, are matters close to my heart.

Firstly, we now know the brain of dyslexics are different (see – The Dyslexic Brain: Words, words, everywhere). This big picture thinking is a function of a cortex structure – more precisely long axons and loose minicolumns, which slows down processing.

Secondly, there are a disproportionately high number of entrepreneurs who are dyslexic – 35% of US and 19% of UK entrepreneurs are dyslexic (see – Julie Logan’s Dyslexic Entrepreneurs: The Incidence; Their Coping Strategies and Their Business Skills (2009) paper).

In Louise Tickle’s Guardian article (2015) she asks, “Dyslexic entrepreneurs – why they have a competitive edge?” and cites Lord Sugar, Anita Roddick, Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea founder). In relation to the RSA article, she highlights the importance a dyslexia-friendly working environment. More specifically, Sharon Hewitt and Hugh Robertson, who are both dyslexic, were determined to create these in their own companies – Chiltern Relocation and RPM respectively.

So, whilst agreeing that to solve big societal problems we need to think like a system and act like an entrepreneur, I can’t think of a better place to start than enabling dyslexics to develop their full ‘big picture thinking’ skills and additionally recognising there could be a direct link between dyslexia and entrepreneurial thinking. If true, let’s have schools, colleges and universities prioritising big picture thinking and workplaces fit for a dyslexic!

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support