Dyslexia in the workplace, stigma or superpower! 

Dyslexia, often considered a learning disorder, can come with strengths and is associated with success in business and entrepreneurship.

Dyslexia in the workplace

Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs, all diagnosed with dyslexia, achieved greatness. In this article, we’ll explore dyslexia and entrepreneurship, and why embracing neurodiversity is crucial.

A study conducted by the University of Cambridge found that people with dyslexia tend to have an explorative bias. This is due to their strengths being problem-solving and adapting to challenges, as well as thinking outside the box. Dyslexics are quick to come up with solutions to problems, and this ability is highly visible in realms that involve creativity, invention, and discovery. Entrepreneurs, in particular, need to be able to see beyond the conventional way of doing things, creating innovative solutions through an explorative mindset, making people with dyslexia good candidates for entrepreneurial success.

One success story is the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates. Gates attended Harvard University but dropped out early to start his own company. He has a diagnosed learning disability—dyslexia. His unique thought processes and perspectives enabled him to develop and innovate technologies that revolutionised the computer industry.

Another successful entrepreneur with dyslexia is Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group. Despite academic struggles and being considered to have learning difficulties, Branson’s passion and drive led him to start his own businesses at a young age. He sees his learning disorder as an asset, enabling him to think creatively, solve problems and create great businesses.

Anita Roddick, The Body Shop founder, had dyslexia. Despite struggling with reading and writing, her creativity and innovation revolutionised the cosmetic industry. She identified untapped opportunities and pioneered eco-friendly, ethical products.

In a similar way being diagnosed with ADHD myself a couple of years ago was a profound discovery.  It all began with an offhand remark from a dear friend, an education professional well-versed in the subject. This unexpected revelation completely transformed how I approach business interactions, allowing me to understand myself better and embrace my neurodiversity instead of battling against it. 

I have always placed a high value on diversity within my team and genuinely appreciate the multitude of perspectives it brings. It is through embracing a diverse range of talents, experiences, and backgrounds that we can truly unlock our collective potential. 

However, it was during a recent business chat where we delved into a discussion about our read aloud platform Fonetti and the profound positive impact it had on a member of my team who as a part of her role regularly had to read aloud as she tested books on the platform that my collaborator shared an anecdote that deeply resonated with me.

She shared a story involving her husband. That morning, he filled out an online profiling application for a top-level procurement position. He chose not to mention his dyslexia to the recruitment firm fearing it could lead to bias and affect the outcome negatively. Despite his exceptional abilities and comprehension, he worried that spending additional time on the application might result in unfair judgement of his abilities. For him it was a ‘no win’ situation! 

This narrative provokes a crucial inquiry regarding the perception of dyslexia in work environments—whether it warrants classification as a disability. Highlighting the need for increased awareness and understanding of challenges faced by individuals with dyslexia, especially in professional settings.

Considering the estimated 1 in 10 people in the UK with dyslexia, perhaps it’s high time we embraced and celebrated this wonderful difference by normalising and accepting it. 

I asked my nephew Dylan, 21, fresh from Reading university where he has just completed his politics degree, what the younger generation feel about the subject.

‘Even though there has been increased awareness of dyslexia over the past few years, I’ve  seen from personal experience many of my peers who struggled in their education due to the overreliance on reading, writing and processing skills. Despite their dyslexia, these individuals have excelled in new professional paths, particularly in business. Their remarkable creativity and problem-solving abilities, which are empowered by dyslexia, have played a significant role in their success.

Kim Antoniou
Kim Antoniou

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