Whilst reading various books on the ways different people see the world due to the inherent ways their brains work – from psychopaths, to sculptures, to dyslexics to comedians, to the characters in Oliver Sacks studies – a common theme has struck me.
The unique or peculiar way someone sees the world (that may not be considered ‘the norm’) is only a problem if that viewpoint means they:
a) causes harm to others
b) can never earn enough money to support themselves, therefore place undue weight on others
c) pass through the “education system”, but with significant emotional distress or overwhelming (soul-destroying) sense of failure.
I hope my step-son, recently diagnosed with dyslexia, will enjoy all the benefits of the dyslexic mind (by being able to more easily see problems in the round, by possessing a strong ability to remember and personalize experience, with a keen sense of different viewpoint); whilst being able to circumvent the drawback of that mind in a neat enough way to be able to pass through his school years happy, secure, confident and able to read without utter exhaustion.
It seems to me that the key for him will be using the strengths of his dyslexic mind to aid the challenges. Using his ability to see many different viewpoints of an object or word (forward, backward, upside down and so on) at once, to isolate the one useful view of the word on the page; and using his great experiential memory to turn difficult abstract words like the, from, think into concrete experiences he can therefore not be confused by.
Essentially for my boy there will be no shortcuts to reading, as if he were to simply learn difficult words by tricks and rotes, he would only make it look like he could read rather than truly mastering reading via understanding what he reads.
This got me thinking about some, though certainly not all, of the candidates I have interviewed over the last few years for senior jobs in digital communications – Account Directors, Snr Digital Planners and so on. While some have blown me away, others have left me feeling like I just interviewed a door to door salesman, whose patter happened to be about “digital”. Thinking back to what really left me so disappointed is that these candidates had simply not got enough experience under their belts of leading, running, planning (or even really observing) social media driven marketing or PR campaigns to be able to base anything they said on a true lived-through understanding of the area they were looking to jump into at a rather senior level.
What they had got was the patter and the book knowledge. So yes they all talked about obsessively watching TED lectures, the great challenges of social media attribution models and about “audiences within audiences of audences” in social media. In fact, they all looked and sounded so much like the Brian Solis presentations that they had sensibly learned by heart and turned into pre-prepared mini-speeches, that it was sometimes hard to tell one earnest soul from the next. These book skills DO impress me and a well read and self-educated social media future superstar is massively appealing to me. However, these folks with so little real-world experience aren’t applying for the jobs that will allow them to climb up the ladder, learn from future experiences and earn their stripes. They are applying for Digital AD jobs and above.
These candidates are like someone with a dyslexic mind using tricks to cover their brains inherent difficulty with certain symbols, objects and words – instead of taking the years of hard work to achieve an in-depth understanding and genuine unshakable mastery.
There are LOTS of shortcuts and covers for seeming like someone that will be massively immediately effective in a digital marketing based business, and with the quick turnover of digital folk in agencies now, it seems to me a lot of the on-paper experts can switch agency before they are ever truly tested. Yet these future superstars by trying to thrust themselves into senior roles, with only one or two years of post-grad experience behind them, may actually be doing themselves a longer term disservice by never allowing themselves the appropriate time to accumulate a foundation of lived-through or experienced knowledge.