Does Dyslexia Translate to Business Success?

A surprising number of icons in the business world have overcome dyslexia. In fact, it could be argued that dyslexia offers some advantages in the business world. Julie Logan of London's Cass School of Business is about to publish a study on the subject.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The British financier Richard Branson and Charles Schwab and Cisco chief John Chambers all have something in common - a lot in common, as a matter of fact. They all founded their own companies, they have all made a lot of money and all are dyslexic. A surprising number of icons in the business world have this learning disability.

Julie Logan, a professor at London's Cass School of Business just came out with a report on the link between dyslexia and business success. And what is it?

Dr. JULIE LOGAN (Director, Simfonec and Entrepreneurship, Cass Business School, London): Well, the link is there's a high incidence of people who have dyslexia, who actually start their own companies.

INSKEEP: Well, let us explain what dyslexia is. The simplest explanation supposedly, you see things backwards.

Dr. LOGAN: Well, when you are young, it can be - you struggle to read, you will see things backwards, you maybe have problems with numbers. But as you get older, it's much more about having disorganization, still, maybe mixing times and dates up and sequencing numbers badly.

INSKEEP: Well, now, I'm just trying to think this is through. If you are starting your own business, why would it be an advantage to be disorganized and have trouble with numbers?

Dr. LOGAN: Okay. I know that sounds very strange. But one of the things that we found in the study is that people who have dyslexia, actually, at a very early age, learn how to get other people to do things for them. They learn how to delegate to compensate for their weaknesses. So they learn to trust other people to do things. This is a great advantage in business because if you start a business, you get good people around you and you delegate. You actually can keep your eye on where that business is going and be very strategic.

INSKEEP: So they learn people skills?

Dr. LOGAN: They learn people skills. They also learn excellent oral communication skills. This is highly useful in business because of you want honest people behind your vision, get people to help you, build a network - if you can communicate orally and sell a really good story, you're going to get people on board.

INSKEEP: What percentage of entrepreneurs were dyslexics?

Dr. LOGAN: In the U.S. study, it was 35 percent. And in the U.K. study, it was 20 percent.

INSKEEP: In the U.S., about a third of entrepreneurs that you happened to survey were dyslexic?

Dr. LOGAN: In our particular survey, yeah.

INSKEEP: And how does that compare to the general population?

Dr. LOGAN: Well, in the general population, it's somewhere between 10 and 15 percent. In the U.S., they sort of put it together with ADHD.

INSKEEP: Oh, that's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Dr. LOGAN: Yes. So 15 percent for those two together in the U.S. So it's much higher than in the general population. And in a way, that makes sense because if you have to do things your own way, if you really struggle to fit in to the corporate environment because you're not going to be comfortable filling in forms and so on and so forth, it would make sense to start your own business.

INSKEEP: You just hit on another possible point here. Maybe you don't get to headed a large company, but if you're in a - your own company, you can make your own rules and work around your own disadvantages and toward your advantages.

Dr. LOGAN: This is a really important point because when we surveyed the corporate managers, we only found 1 percent of senior corporate managers who are dyslexic. So it's quite likely, and there's a lot of evidence, like the research evidence, which suggests that if you're dyslexic, you're uncomfortable in a large corporate. And you won't cope, really, with all the form, filling in the procedures and so on and so forth. So why not create your own environment?

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask for a little bit of practical advice, if I might. Does this mean that parents who have dyslexic children can now relax, their kids will be okay or, maybe, statistically better than okay?

Dr. LOGAN: NO. I think the important thing that came out of the study is those people who had succeeded, their parents or a teacher had really believed in them and really pushed them to achieve in other areas so that they had a feeling of self-worth.

INSKEEP: Julie Logan, thanks very much.

Dr. LOGAN: Thank you.

INSKEEP: She's a professor at London's Cass School of Business.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.