Five important lessons we can learn from dyslexic entrepreneurs – from Richard Branson to Jo Malone

The world is made up of so many incredible Dyslexic Thinkers and entrepreneurs, all of whom possess qualities and attributes that make them unique and successful in their field.

Here are five lessons we can learn from top dyslexic entrepreneurs to celebrate some of the extraordinary strengths that come with dyslexia.  

1) Dyslexics think differently – the Dyslexic Thinking skill of IMAGINING

Dyslexic brains process information differently. We are naturally creative, good at   problem- solving and talented communicators. Our heightened abilities in areas like visualisation and reasoning skills alongside our natural entrepreneurial traits, bring a fresh and intuitive perspective.

Put simply, we see the world differently. We use these skills to dream big, imagine new solutions and innovate in ways that others couldn’t conceive possible. 

Sir Richard Branson says: 

My dyslexia has shaped Virgin right from the very beginning and imagination has been the key to many of our successes. It helped me think big but keep our messages simple. The business world often gets caught up in facts and figures – and while the details and data are important, the ability to dream, conceptualise and innovate is what sets the successful and the unsuccessful apart.

Dyslexic minds may be restricted by our school system, wherein standardised testing create standardised thinking. But in the world of business, where thinking differently gives you a competitive edge, we focus on our strengths and flourish.

That’s because creative thinking comes naturally to dyslexics. It helps us to approach old problems in new ways. Being unconventional in a same- same market helps us to disrupt industries and give customers an alternative. 

Jo Malone, says: 

My dyslexia is not a disability, but an ability to think differently, and if this world needs anything at this moment, it is people who think differently. We’ve learnt how to see around walls and spot the potential in something that others don’t.

2) Dyslexics keep it simple – the Dyslexic Thinking skill of REASONING

There’s plenty of complexity in building your own business. However, dyslexics are brilliant at using their enhanced Reasoning skills to see the bigger picture and simplify things. This in turn can help them to be bold and act fast, capitalising on opportunity.

Nick Jones, founder of Soho House says:

One great advantage of being dyslexic is simplification. Simplifying things allows for better decision- making and is a real help when running a company.

According to Nick Jones, determination, imagination and simplification have helped him build Soho House, arguably the most successful, but definitely the coolest chain of private members clubs in the world. 

3) Dyslexics are great explainers and storytellers – the Dyslexic Thinking skill of COMMUNICATING. 

While it may be hard to cope with mountains of paperwork, we are adept at creating clear messages that win hearts and minds. Dyslexics have an enhanced ability to simplify the narrative and sell the vision. IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad used his Dyslexic Thinking to create some interesting innovations.

Take the unique names of IKEA’s furniture for example. Having started IKEA as a mail-order sales business, his products were identified by individual codes. As many dyslexics would, he struggled to remember the numbers. So he decided to create a new system, naming each set of furniture after memorable Swedish names and places.

The system has been used ever since and is renowned around the world. Then consider the distinct assembly instructions for IKEA products. They are all pictures, no words. For a dyslexic who sees the world in a visual way, that makes perfect sense. It also became an iconic part of IKEA’s appeal.

4) Dyslexics are passionate and curious – the Dyslexic Thinking skill of EXPLORING

Dyslexics are curious and questioning, building businesses that are fuelled by our passion and curiosity. We explore ideas in an energetic and constant way. And, when it comes to customer experience, we are often motivated to go the extra mile. As 

Nick Jones, Founder and CEO Soho House explains: 

To be successful in business you need to get your P’s in the right order and dyslexia helps you do that. First ‘passion’, second great ‘people’, third great ‘product’. Then ‘profit’ will follow.

Dyslexics have a unique ability to explore and visualise outcomes, which can include multiple possibilities or multiple perspectives in business. They can imagine how a certain scenario will pan out, spot gaps and opportunities that others may miss. Or visualise a product from all angles.

This gives them an amazing advantage when it comes to designing new products, inventing new services or improving existing products on the market.

5) Dyslexics are ‘people’  people –  the Dyslexic Thinking skill of CONNECTING

Another skill that sets dyslexic entrepreneurs apart is their ability to motivate, lead and inspire people. This is born out of our strong Connecting skills and heightened emotional intelligence. Being aware of our weaknesses and the need to focus on our strengths, we also become expert delegators. 

Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO of Spanx says: 

The smartest thing I ever did was to hire my weakness. By having this greater understanding of ourselves and others, we’re able to create brilliant teams to grow companies faster. And when it comes to communicating with our customers, our high levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and passion mean we are great at understanding how to reach and inspire them. This builds brands and products that truly connect with customers in a powerful authentic way.

With the right support and the right opportunities, dyslexic entrepreneurs will continue to transform the world we live in. It’s vital we support everyone with dyslexia to realise their potential, starting at school and running right through to the world of work.

We must celebrate their imagination, creativity and problem- solving – the skills our entrepreneurs need for the future.

Kate Griggs is the founder and CEO of global charity Made By Dyslexia and author of dyslexia guide This is Dyslexia (Penguin, £11.99) and children’s book Xtraordinary People: Made By Dyslexia (Penguin, £6.99).