Random Conversations

Dyslexia, Diversity of Thought, and (yes) Conversation

Dyslexia, Diversity of Thought, and (yes) Conversation

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A thoughtful LinkedIn post by Richard Branson, “AI aggregates, but dyslexia innovates,” has stayed with me.

Branson says that dyslexia is his superpower and he’s spreading the word about the strengths it brings. How refreshing to read this when much of what’s written about dyslexia presents only the inherent challenges – especially for students.

In an IMSE (Institute for Multi-Sensory Education) Journal interview, Branson spoke about his struggles in school and said,

“It is not a disadvantage; it is merely a different way of thinking.”

After leaving school, he said that dyslexia

“helped me to think creatively and laterally, and see solutions where others saw problems.”

He is now helping schools and organizations better understand dyslexia. Virgin and Made By Dyslexia have launched a campaign to show what is possible when AI and dyslexic thinking come together. AI can help in areas that are challenging to those with dyslexia, allowing them to focus on what they do best.

A short Made By Dyslexia video states that “40% of the world’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs are dyslexic.” A quick internet search lists Leonardo da Vinci, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs as dyslexic – people who changed the world in a multitude of ways.

Making the world easier for dyslexics to navigate is of benefit to us all.

I am not dyslexic, but I am predominately right-brained and I now understand that is true of dyslexics as well. Organizations tend to promote left-brained thinking and processes – financial statements, analytics, statistical projections. It took me years to understand and embrace the value of my kind of thinking in the workplace.

Reflecting on Diversity of Thought

There is a tremendous benefit to having diversity of thought within our teams at work – and in our lives in general. We need to weigh multiple points of view to understand complexity. We need people to push back when we miss something important. And we need to leverage our strengths so we can function at our best.

I have seen projects fail because decisions were made by a small group of like-minded individuals. All the relevant voices need to be heard if we are to make the wisest decisions.

And how do we include all those disparate voices? Conversation – intentionally honoring, of course.

It is so easy to discount someone for being different. What happens if we pause for a moment and listen without judgment? What happens if we become curious to learn more? Well, one thing that happens is that we come away with a fuller, more nuanced understanding of what is and what can be.

Moving Forward

It was the birthday of a dear friend yesterday, as I write – a friend I lost 20 years ago now. Bobby was a phenomenal artist who I wrote about here. He was also dyslexic. He created magnificent sculptures but greatly struggled when trying to write.

I spoke with his daughter, Vivienne, as I always do on his birthday, and I told her about Richard Branson’s post. She is an artist and, like her father, she is also dyslexic. She rattled off a series of names of other talented people we both know – all dyslexic artists.

Viv then exuberantly added, “I love being dyslexic!” It impacts how she views the world and how she creates her art.

Can we acknowledge and embrace the originality of a more creative, less linear way of thinking at work? This is not an either/or question – it's a both/and.

I am heartened by an interview with Albert Einstein that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Albert Einstein: “Imagination Is More Important Than Knowledge” – originally published in 1929 and revisited in 2010.

Einstein had an incredible imagination which he paired with deep knowledge – a powerful combination that allowed him to explore complexity in a new and creative way. Of the two he said,

I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

We can all use more imagination, can’t we?

Image by Rawpixel on Frepik | Richard Branson on LinkedIn: AI aggregates, but dyslexia innovates

Cathy Joseph is the author of the Random Conversations blog and is currently seeking representation for her book, The Art of Having a Delicious Conversation.

© 2022 Cathy Joseph. All rights reserved.

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