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.