How to use Mind Mapping to empower employees with dyslexia

What do Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg and Bill Gates have in common?

Besides the fact that they are all hugely successful individuals in their own right, each of these famous figures has dyslexia.

With around 1 in 10 people in the UK being affected by this neurological difference, dyslexia is more common than many of us may think. In fact, it’s quite likely that someone in your workplace is affected by it too. This means that as an employer, you should be doing all that you can to support these workers and develop the great skills they possess. 

Neurological differences are to be celebrated, after all. Different ways of thinking lead to more creative ideas being generated, as well as a multitude of solutions for the same problem – so we can get more work done, get it done quickly, and ensure it is of better quality. Besides, life would simply be boring if we all looked at things in the same way.

Despite the fact that dyslexia is very common, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding it. Although it’s true that the condition can affect people’s reading, writing and spelling abilities, it can also impact memory and organisational skills – particularly in regards to time management.

Dyslexic employees in your workplace may find it harder to take down notes in meetings and structure their written work (such as letters, emails, essays and reports), even though they may be highly knowledgeable in a subject. In addition to this, they may be prone to forgetting phone numbers and the dates and times of meetings, as well as struggle to prioritise their work most effectively and remember multiple deadlines. 

However, though dyslexia does come with its challenges, it brings plenty of benefits too – and there are a number of reasons why dyslexic thinkers are great employees. Those with the condition tend to be great problem solvers, being able to see the big picture, spot patterns, and apply logic when making predictions. 

They can also be immensely creative, devising great ideas that many of us would never think of. This is because many with dyslexia are used to thinking outside the box, having had to devise innovative solutions to overcome the hurdles they have faced.

Fortunately, there are countless examples of assistive technology now available to help dyslexic thinkers in their education and work. One such example is Mind Mapping software.

What is the link between Mind Mapping and dyslexia?

Most of us are familiar with Mind Maps – although we may have referred to them as a different name, such as brainstorms or spider diagrams. Whatever you call them, the premise is the same; they’re an excellent tool for anyone who wants to boost their productivity or creative thinking as they encourage us to trigger ideas by making associations.

Known for being extremely visually stimulating, Mind Maps use a distinct combination of colours, images and visual-spatial arrangement to structure ideas. This doesn’t just make them look more pleasing to the eye, but greatly benefits dyslexic thinkers by helping them organise their work and break down complex information – something many people with dyslexia struggle with.

Mind Maps are also highly versatile. In fact, more versatile than you might think. From planning meetings to brainstorming ideas, here are a few ways that Mind Maps can be used to empower dyslexic employees in the workplace:

Plan meeting agendas

A great deal of us can relate to having a less-than-perfect short-term memory. If you’re juggling many tasks at once, it’s easy for the dates of important meetings to slip through the cracks and sneak up on you before you’ve had a chance to prepare for them. Dyslexic thinkers are more likely to have poor verbal memories, which can make it tricky for them to remember information that is said to them out loud.

Planning your meetings through digital Mind Maps gives dyslexic employees a written record of everything they need to know that they can easily refer back to, such as the time and date of the meeting, its location, who will be in attendance, and what will be covered. Putting your event or meeting agenda in a more creative format than a text document or email will also make it easier for this information to be processed by a dyslexic thinker.

Structure reports and essays

For many with the condition, dyslexia can have a substantial impact on writing ability. In early childhood, this can present itself in various different ways; from having an unusual pen grip, to struggling to form or spell certain words. As they get older, difficulty with organisation can also affect the structure and flow of written work such as essays, reports, presentations, and even letters and emails, making these tasks more laborious.

Unfortunately, dyslexic thinkers may have plenty of brilliant, innovative ideas, but no idea how to go about structuring them before they start writing. One way you can support these individuals is by investing in Mind Mapping software and encouraging them to put their ideas down in a Mind Map before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Mind Mapping will allow them to determine exactly what they want to say and provide a clear structure, resulting in increased confidence and productivity.

Brainstorm in meetings

We can’t ignore one of the Mind Map’s most popular uses, now can we? Mind Mapping is the perfect tool for brainstorming ideas quickly, requiring you to capture them in the form of single words or short phrases – making them highly beneficial if you need to capture creative ideas for a project or identify possible solutions to a problem during a meeting.

Again, keeping a written record of your ideas will ensure that nothing is forgotten before it has a chance to be put into action. This is useful for anyone involved in the meeting – not just those with dyslexia. Additionally, one of the many strengths of those with dyslexia is that they are able to see ‘the big picture’ when others cannot, as well as easily identify trends and patterns. This means they may quickly be able to look at a collection of ideas (such as a Mind Map) and find the perfect solution – a surefire way to make them feel empowered by their skills.

Despite the challenges they face on a daily basis, dyslexic thinkers have many wonderful skills, from thinking creatively, to solving problems. Empower these employees with the right tools and support, and they’re sure to thrive in your workplace.

About the author

Written by Chris Griffiths with Louise Cunnah. Chris is a world-leading creativity expert and creator of the app Ayoa – a platform used by top thinkers to boost productivity.

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