Branson, Jobs, Gates, Dyson, Spielberg, Einstein, Ford, Bell, Einstein, Da Vinci, Picasso – why every boardroom should hire a dyslexic thinker.

Think Different’ was the headline on Apple’s legendary ad campaign, unknowingly featuring a large number of dyslexics – Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein, Picasso, John Lennon, Andy Warhol… and many others.

It was an appropriate headline, as even if dyslexics may be bad spellers they compensate with an ability to be creative and think differently.

I call them the ‘super thinkers’ because dyslexics think in a more dimensional way, which allows them to make connections others can’t see. Put a dyslexic thinker in a brainstorm and they are the one’s coming up with non-stop ideas.

Put them in a business and they see possibilities other can’t and new ways of doing business which in today’s turbulent business world, could make the difference between success or decline.

In an era when even legendary companies are fighting to survive, the phrase “disruptive innovation” has boardrooms running to employ consultants to try and solve their business problems and help then keep up and future-proof their companies.

From management consultants to business strategists to brand consultancies, in an era where innovative thinking is probably the key to business success, what boardrooms are really looking for is a different viewpoint – people who think differently – not a process. Yet a process is exactly what most get sold.

I am a great admirer of legendary business advisors Charles Handy and Tom Peters, but I want to updated their advice to CEOs, which was to ‘hire a maverick’. I get the point, you want people who challenge the status-quo because if you don’t you aren’t moving on. But companies need solutions as well, not people who just challenge. I want to go a stage further and suggest that ‘every boardroom should hire a dyslexic thinker.’

Mavericks are usually disruptive in a non-constructive way but Dyslexics think differently. They see things in an extra dimensional way and see solutions other can’t see, rather than just problems.”

You don’t have to look far for examples – Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Alexander Graham Bell, James Dyson – just a few great thinkers and great businessmen who were all dyslexic. Who wouldn’t want innovative thinkers like that in their company?

The rules have changed, and if you are still thinking in the past then you are probably heading to joining the list of Kodak, Woolworths, MFI, HMV, Comet, Blockbusters and many more.

More established companies (over 50-years-old) have gone bust in the last 10 years than in any other decade, even the world’s oldest company, Kongo Gumi, a Japanese house builder that was established 1400 years ago.

The average lifespan of a company use to be 75 years, now it’s just 15, reinforced by the fact that 52% of top 500 companies have disappeared in the last 15 years (88% in the last 50 years).

According to research by Prof. Julie Logan of Cass Business School in London, proportionally, more people with dyslexia start their own businesses than those without, which makes their success vital to the national economy and wider society. Dyslexia, in some way shape or form, is linked to this creative business phenomenon, and Prof. Logan backs up Gallup’s assertion that “great entrepreneurs are creative thinkers”.

Many companies don’t understand consumer behavior and psychology, consumers are now defining market behaviour not brands. It’s interesting if you study many of the start-ups, especially in banking and insurance, what defines their difference from the monolithic financial institutes is that they all take a consumer-centric approach combined with innovative thinking that utilizes the latest technology.

“Failure to understand your consumer is ten times more likely to send you company bust than not embracing technology.”
This year I launched The Garage, an extension of our ethical ad agency Creative Orchestra. We already have six dyslexics in our team of 12, as well as numerous specialist partners from retail innovation to gaming who we can draw on, Longer-term, we plan to tap into the massive dyslexic business community.

Earlier this year we ran a recruitment ad, featuring Steve Jobs, inviting people who think differently to apply. It attracted over 1000 dyslexics from ex-VPs of the top 500 companies to celebrities and ordinary people who just see the world in another way.

Despite some concerns over the phrase “only dyslexics should apply” being controversial, we have received numerous people thanking us for awakening the business world to the talent that dyslexics can offer.

Far from the old image that dyslexia is some kind of disability that needs curing, progressive thinkers are looking to embrace the power of these ‘super-thinkers’.

Top selling business author Malcolm Gladwell points out in his recent book, David & Goliath, that a larger than normal percentage of successful businesspeople are dyslexics. Proving that “one man’s disadvantage is another man’s advantage”.
Richard Branson, an iconic dyslexia entrepreneur is open about his dyslexia and attributes it to his success. To quote Branson, from a letter to a 9-year-old girl with dyslexia: “Being dyslexic is actually an advantage and has helped me greatly in life. I see my condition as a gift.”

So my message to boards of top companies, if you want to adapt, innovate and even survive, what you need are thinkers like Branson, Jobs, Gates, Dyson, Spielberg, Ford, Bell, Einstein…


Dyslexic entrepreneur Chris Arnold is a former director and Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi. He is founder of advertising agency Creative Orchestra and innovation consultancy The Garage. m: 07778 056686

#ThinkDifferent #SuperThinkers

LINKS: A list of top dyslexics.
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