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Dyslexia in the age of AI: Deficit or competitive difference?

By Gemma Spence, Vice President, Commerce Transformation



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August 31, 2023 | 6 min read

The creative and business value of people with dyslexia is becoming better understood – but is AI set to make things even better for dyslexic thinkers? VMLY&R Commerce’s Gemma Spence investigates.

A production line of bottles, one of them gold in a sea of normality

Is artificial intelligence helping dyslexic thinkers to unlock their greatness? / Will Myers via Unsplash

The AI revolution is poised to transform workplaces worldwide and it will bring with it both positive and negative transformations for businesses. One of the positives is a distinct opportunity for advertising and consulting agencies to drive innovation by leveraging the unique perspectives of dyslexic thinkers in conjunction with AI.

A few years ago, when I returned to postgraduate education, I discovered that I possess a dyslexic thinking style: an approach to problem-solving, assessing information, and learning that involves pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, lateral thinking, and interpersonal communication. The challenges I faced in terms of literacy and working memory were not indicative of my intelligence; rather, dyslexic thinking offered competitive strength by successfully leveraging various tools, techniques, and strategies available to assist people like me.

Insights provided by Kate Griggs and Richard Branson have shed light on the significant opportunities that arise when businesses unlock the potential of dyslexic thinkers within an AI-driven paradigm shift. The advertising and creative sectors in particular stand on the cusp of disruption, propelled by the emergence and growth of generative AI solutions such as ChatGPT Dall-E 2, Jasper, and Cadence.

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Dyslexia, AI, research, and ‘soft’ skills

The creative industries have long attracted neurodiverse and dyslexic thinkers; neurodiverse individuals comprise roughly 54% of employees in advertising agencies. This convergence presents a rare and unparalleled opportunity for businesses to elevate the power of neurodiverse and dyslexic thinkers by building on AI.

One significant advantage of AI is its ability to rapidly aggregate content by swiftly sifting through vast amounts of information. This offers significant advantages for dyslexic thinkers. Dyslexia can make traditional research difficult and time-consuming. But with AI-powered tools, information is quickly gathered, organized, and presented in an easy-to-understand way. Summaries help researchers grasp key insights without reading lengthy texts, and language translation makes content accessible in different languages. Dyslexic people can also listen to content through text-to-speech and speech-to-text features, enhancing their learning experience. AI’s personalized content curation and data visualization further aid in understanding information.

By leveraging AI, dyslexic thinkers gain efficient and inclusive access to knowledge, empowering them to excel in various domains with greater ease.

While technology and AI have advanced to replicate many skills, they cannot replace the sought-after ‘soft’ or ‘power’ skills that dyslexic thinking embodies. Skills such as creativity, adaptability, leadership, innovation, problem-solving, and critical thinking are essential in every workplace. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report emphasizes the importance of these skills, which can complement AI and are crucial for the future of work, particularly in areas like pattern recognition and insight generation.

Where dyslexic people can (and will) excel

Research conducted by MadebyDyslexia reveals that 84% of dyslexic thinkers excel in the skill of exploring, which involves constantly and energetically exploring ideas. Additionally, dyslexics are often enthusiastic early adopters of evolving technologies, viewing them as powerful tools to enhance their valuable dyslexic thinking skills in the workplace. This means that neurodiverse and dyslexic thinkers can leverage AI to process large volumes of data, while their inherent curiosity allows them to see the bigger picture, approach problems differently, and make connections that others may miss.

Dyslexic people are known for their natural curiosity, exceptional creativity, keen observation, and unparalleled ability to think laterally and in three dimensions. They often excel in soft skills such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, reasoning, leadership, social influence and complex problem-solving, all of which are in high demand for future competencies. The world has seen numerous extraordinary dyslexic thinkers throughout history, including (many experts now think) luminaries like Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso.

LinkedIn recently took a significant step forward by adding dyslexic thinking as a recognized skill. With over 810 million members globally, users now have the option to showcase this valuable skill on their profiles. This development not only raises awareness; it also highlights the remarkable strengths that dyslexic thinkers possess and contribute to their communities.

Dyslexics are perfectly positioned to unlock the opportunities presented by AI. Moreover, AI will enhance and amplify the skills dyslexics bring to the workplace — skills AI cannot replace. Providing training to further unlock the unique and advantageous capabilities that dyslexic thinkers possess can develop a competitive advantage rather than a disadvantage. It’s an unstoppable combination.

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