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Dyslexia - Learning "disability" entrepreneurial ability?

Finally some evidence explaining why those exceptional entrepreneurial project managers, the ones who seem to do everything wrong and still create remarkable results, manage to succeed. Perhaps they don't do it right because they can't follow the schematic or pass the certification test, but they succeed because they develop compensating abilities that, in situations requiring rapid adaptation, more than compensate for their "disabilities."

Tracing Business Acumen to Dyslexia


Published: December 6, 2007 New York Times

It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.

The report, compiled by Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, found that more than a third of the entrepreneurs she had surveyed — 35 percent — identified themselves as dyslexic. The study also concluded that dyslexics were more likely than nondyslexics to delegate authority, to excel in oral communication and problem solving and were twice as likely to own two or more businesses.

“We found that dyslexics who succeed had overcome an awful lot in their lives by developing compensatory skills,” Professor Logan said in an interview. “If you tell your friends and acquaintances that you plan to start a business, you’ll hear over and over, ‘It won’t work. It can’t be done.’ But dyslexics are extraordinarily creative about maneuvering their way around problems.”

Read the rest of the story here: http://tinyurl.com/yps3tv

I have written here and elsewhere about entrepreneurial energy, about how investigators have tried to identify those skills and teach them to others. What if these skills aren't really skills at all, but rather automatic responses to certain innate disabilities. The logic of collaboration might well get lost in the hustle IF the would-be collaborator really could take care of everything alone. But these dyslexic entrepreneurs have learned, as the founder of Kinkos learned, that anyone can do it better than they can, so sharing the reins becomes more likely under stress.

Can these different abilities be taught? This survey found that a paltry 1% of corporate managers are blessed with the gift of dyslexia, and recruiting strategies seem pretty effective at preventing these special people from ever entering the ranks of corporate management. They do show up in the ranks of those unlikely managers, those who find themselves managing projects, the most entrepreneurial activities in the enterprise.

The current certification craze has further limited entry for those apparently most likely to succeed in these entrepreneurial activities. This might explain why large companies continue to operationalize project work, as if it were just another manufacturing process improved by routinization. It also might explain why large corporations live for, on average, no longer than thirty years. A decade in entrepreneurial engagement, a decade cruising on the start-up's momentum, and a decade extinguishing the initiating spark through selective recruitment and process enforcement.

This is a powerful example of how all those so-called disabilities are situational strengths. If only we could learn to appreciate differences rather than exclude or try to reform them.

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