New Dyslexia Documentary Explains Entrepreneur Link

Posted by: Nick Leiber on May 12, 2011

In 2007, Julie Logan, a professor of entrepreneurship at Cass Business School in London, released the results of a study of 102 entrepreneurs in the U.S. showing that 35 percent identified themselves as dyslexic. This is strikingly high when compared with a national incidence rate of 10 percent in the general population.

Among Logan’s findings: “dyslexic entrepreneurs were more likely to own several companies and to grow their companies more quickly than those who were not dyslexic. They employed more staff and reported an increased ability to delegate. Non-dyslexic entrepreneurs stayed with their companies for longer, suggesting they were able to cope with growth and the accompanying structure that is implemented. In contrast, dyslexic entrepreneurs seem to prefer the early stages of business start-up when they are able to control their environment.”

As Businessweek.com reported at the time:

The broader implication, [Logan] says, is that many of the coping skills dyslexics learn in their formative years become best practices for the successful entrepreneur. A child who chronically fails standardized tests must become comfortable with failure. Being a slow reader forces you to extract only vital information, so that you’re constantly getting right to the point. Dyslexics are also forced to trust and rely on others to get things done—an essential skill for anyone working to build a business.

Now HBO2 is airing Journey into Dyslexia, a new documentary by Oscar-winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond that profiles dyslexic individuals from different fields and backgrounds. One subject is entrepreneur Steve Walker, founder of biofuels manufacturer New England Wood Pellet in Jaffrey, N.H. While the film’s goal is to examine misperceptions and implications of dyslexia inside and outside the business world, the husband-and-wife team say entrepreneurs deserve their own film.

Aware that many entrepreneurs view their dyslexia as a gift, the Raymonds say they were struck by the stories of how founders had discovered their strengths early in their lives, while struggling in school. “Carl Schramm [the CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, who is interviewed in the film] says there’s no particular reason to think that you could connect the dots between a learning disability and entrepreneurs. He believes it’s because they are visionary and they do have an ability to see things other people don’t. They’re people who don’t fit in typical societal norms, so they sort of create their own world. It’s a fascinating idea,” says Alan.

So far the biggest response to the documentary, which debuted last night, has been from entrepreneurs. “It’s three times higher from [them],” says Susan. It airs again on HBO2 on May 14 and May 22, and is on demand through June 5. More studies are on the Raymonds’ website.

Reader Comments

RJ

May 12, 2011 5:45 PM

I am sharing this with my nephew who I believe has dyslexia. The school system is woefully inadequate in recognizing and handling this. Ever since he was held back in second grade he has never been the same boy. He is now 14. he is depressed and has a low self esteem. They even had him on drugs for ADD which was a huge mistake for him and the family. Many tears later he said please don't make me take those pills any more. He has been tutored for years and still has trouble reading. After seeing this show last night I called his mother, my sister and shared my excitement. Together we are going to watch the show when it airs next or if I buy the DVD. I want him to feel good about himself and have the same successes as those interviewed in this show.
I am dyslexic as well. Because of this documentary I feel better. I wanted to go to medical school but my dyslexia prevented that. I did manage to go on to get a Masters Degree. I think, but am not sure, a person can change the activity level in their brain by practicing reading. I think I did that, at least a little. Maybe my ability to write helped me overcome some of the reading difficulties.

jenny

May 13, 2011 9:54 AM

FJ might be interested in this

Fernette and Brock Eide

May 13, 2011 10:01 AM

There really needs to be a paradigm shift in how the world looks at Dyslexia. There are many obstacles in the way for young people with dyslexia but these are some of the most creative and intelligent people we have in our society.

In our forthcoming book The Dyslexic Advantage (August!), we interview such talented people with dyslexia as CEO Douglas Merrill (ex Google CIO), astrophysicist Matt Schneps, and James Russell, inventor of the cdrom.

RJ, think of joining our network at http://DyslexicAdvantage.com We also have an article about doctors with dyslexia there.

Rafael

May 13, 2011 11:54 AM

I saw the documentary Wednesday night. It is such an inspiring story that I believe every parent, student and teacher should watch.

It is true that dyslexia is a gift, and that dyslexics contribute to our society in many important ways.

I only worry that dyslexic students don't come out with the wrong message after watching this film. While it is true that you may become successful without learning to read or write; the VAST MAJORITY of dyslexics end up falling through the cracks and giving up.

As a dyslexic, IT IS POSSIBLE to learn to read given the right instruction. Any Orton-Gillingham based reading and writing program can bring a dyslexic up to reading level in 1 to 3 years.

PH

May 16, 2011 6:56 PM

My daughter is a 3rd generation dyslexic and the first one to read well. This is because of improved early intervention and her PITA mother who nagged the school, the administration and her daughter to do more. Her uncle and grandfather did go to Harvard but at great cost to their self esteem.
It helped to point out not only her lineage but also the world-famous dyslexics. I just wish we had more women to point to as role models than Whoopi Goldberg. It's still a glass ceiling in the business world, dyslexic or not.

DB

May 21, 2011 12:02 PM

My heart breaks for RJ's nephew who may have dyslexia. My grandson has dyslexia and the public school system was a sad place for him for the first 3 years of his education. Fortunately for us my grandson is now able to attend a school where many of the students have dyslexia along with other issues and he has grown into a happy, loving, intelligent kid. He now writes long creative essays, reads without fear and loves his school where the teachers know how to teach students with dyslexia. What a shame our school systems don't train teachers to help these beautiful kids along in school. These are their best years, the foundation of their lives and they deserve better.

Aziz

May 26, 2011 10:05 PM

My son is dyslexic. The school system is not supportive of dyslexics. Even the ones with dyslexia programs only cater for a few subjects when the dyslexic children need accommodations for all subjects.

Dyslexics think differently, are more creative and use more of their right brain. The book "Whole New Mind" says the right brainers will do well in the future. I pray they do!

CHERYL P

August 16, 2011 2:44 PM

i seen a documentary on dyslexia with a very interesting man in it but can not rember where i seen it my boss has this disorder and is a very brilliant man I would love to talk to this man further or his wife to help me understand this a bit more has anyone else seen it i rember the man wore a red shirt and owned a pellet making company

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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