I have spent at least half my career involved in entrepreneurial businesses as employee, director, owner and founder – all the time learning (and sometimes not learning!) from my own successes and failures of as well as those of the people around me.
Consequently, when I was diagnosed as dyslexic and started to research what this really meant, I was not totally surprised to find the work of Julie Logan regarding the incidence of dyslexia amongst entrepreneurs.
Research shows that many entrepreneurs are dyslexic
Julie Logan is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Cass Business School. In 2008 she wrote a paper entitled “Analysis of the Incidence of Dyslexia in Entrepreneurs and its implications” that highlighted a number of key findings, based on US research:
- In the sample taken, 35% of US entrepreneurs were found to be dyslexic vs 15% in general US society
- Dyslexic entrepreneurs were more likely to own several companies, employed more staff and were better at delegation.
- Non-dyslexic entrepreneurs owned companies for longer suggesting they were able to cope with growth and the accompanying structure that is implemented.
- Dyslexic entrepreneurs seem to prefer the early stages of business start-up when they are able to control their environment.
So many entrepreneurs are dyslexic…
Personal experience of dyslexia and entrepreneurship
For my own part, by 2000 I had already observed the different phases that start-ups tend to pass through and realised, initially to my cost, that those who are adept at starting businesses may not be best placed to put in place order needed to cope with rapid growth or to operate them in a steady state.
In my experience the most astute and self-aware entrepreneurs choose to compensate for their own weaknesses by surrounding themselves with others with complementary skills.
So who is Dyslexic then?
There are a lot of well reported cases of dyslexic entrepreneurs including:
- Sir Richard Branson
- Sir Alan Sugar
- Steve Jobs
- Bill Gates
- Charles Schwab
- Walt Disney
I will soon be posting a well referenced section on famous dyslexics. Do register for email updates if you are interested.
Dyslexics… a new wave of intrapreneurs?
Another interesting feature of Julie Logan’s analysis is that only 1% of corporate managers were reported as being dyslexic, which is a stark contrast to the 35% of entrepreneurs.
Following my involvement with SMEs I have spent more than 10 years within corporate environments and I know from personal experience that the level of disclosure within many large organisations is low vs the reality. For those who are successful there is often no perceived need to disclose anything. For those who are not, there is often a reluctance to draw attention to something that is not always well understood. So the actual rate of incidence of dyslexia, even in a “dyslexia friendly” environment, is likely to be far higher than any HR records show.
However, whatever the actual levels, I wonder if major employers are missing an opportunity…
Large organisations everywhere are striving to embrace innovation and take advantage of new ideas to make themselves more competitive and protect themselves from the threat posed by more agile competitors. Often, they look to the start-up sector for the agility of thought and energy needed to achieve this.
However, if we could only harness the latent creative talent currently hiding within the dyslexic population of corporates… perhaps dyslexics could lead the new wave of intrapreneurs?