Why dyslexia doesn't have to be a disadvantage

For some people, being dyslexic could be considered a disadvantage but many highly successful people don’t see it that way. Pip Jamieson, founder of The Dots, explores why it could actually be an advantage…

Until very recently, many sperm banks rejected donors that had dyslexia – it was perceived to be a disability. However, with 40 per cent of self-made millionaires being dyslexic – including Richard Branson, Anita Roddick, Steve Jobs, Jo Malone and countless more – this has made me reflect on my own dyslexia. I’ve found that the skills that dyslexia amplifies are in fact superpowers, not only if you want to be an entrepreneur – but for finding a job more generally. 

We all know the robots are coming! Soon machines will drive, serve customers, and do our accounts and legal work. But many dyslexic traits are far harder to automate, which is brilliant for our future employability. Here’s why:

We’re creative

One of the reasons so many successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic is we’re highly creative. Crucially, creativity is the skill-set that is least susceptible to automation. A recent study by NESTA and Oxford University found that 86 per cent of 'highly creative' workers are found to be at low or no risk of automation. While the same study found that creative occupations are more future-proof to technologies like machine learning and mobile robotics. We see this first hand with the thousands of companies that use The Dots to find talent, putting creative skills (and therefore also dyslexic people) at the top of their wish list. 

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We’re Intuitive

Humans are the most sophisticated machines that exist! We take in millions of inputs a day and synthesise it into gut feelings. Machines really struggle with basic common sense, and when it comes to human intuitions, well that’s an even bigger leap – I guess this is why Steve Jobs famously said “intuition is more powerful than intellect!” The brilliant thing about being dyslexic is we tend to have above average intuition. Why? Because although it can be hard to focus in on individual words, people with dyslexia have better peripheral vision than most, meaning we quickly take in a whole scene, see outer edges and the big picture. In essence, more data flows into our brains each day, which we can then synthesis into intuition. 

We’re continuous learners

Recent research found that the majority of people (around 70 per cent) are in occupations with highly uncertain prospects. The honest truth is none of us really know what is around the corner, but it’s likely that five years from now, over one-third of skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. So the trick is we have to keep continuously learning new skills – and this (according to Yale University) is something dyslexic do really well. Why? Because we’re curious! Saying that, until recently even with a heightened appetite to learn, dyslexics did struggle learning the traditional way, specifically, reading. Then wonderful technology projects like listening to books via Audible came along, and bingo, our insatiable appetite to learn knows no boundaries! 

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We’re empathetic

Another trait that machines struggle to mimic is a human capability to feel empathy, or understand empathy. The good news is that, according to Yale, dyslexics have exceptional empathy and warmth. Whether this heightened empathy is a result of our brains being wired differently, or because our childhoods are defined by difference so we more empathy to others’ plights, is not clear. But what we do know is the ability to read other people’s emotions is something we have over machines! 

We’re resilient

Above all we’re resilient. Managing dyslexia is no walk in the park, particularly when you’re a kid and start falling behind in class because you’re not picking up reading and writing as quickly as your friends. I could barely read until I was 11 and it took a lot of hard graft to pull through. I’d do extra classes before school, at lunch and after school to catch up. Homework took me longer, and dealing with the shame of not feeling as smart as my peers was at the times really painful. But the more I worked at it, the easier got. Eventually I managed to get through school and on to university where, much to the surprise of my family (and myself!), I got a 1st.

Like many dyslexics who have managed to beat the odds, this teaches us resilience, grit and determination to succeed – so even if robots do affect our careers – we won’t give up easily! 

So if you’re dyslexic, or have a kid that is, remember the odds are now in our favour – we have the skills of the future and the world is our oyster! 

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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