Thursday, May 26, 2016

How CEOs With Learning Disabilities Innovated Groundbreaking Technologies

CEOs are different from almost everyone else. They thrive on risk and reward. In today’s economy, many run multi-million dollar high-tech companies. It takes charisma to persuade thousands of employees to share a corporate vision and to believe in “the evidence of things not seen.”

It takes unusual talent and persistence to create gigantic corporations, handle nationwide marketing campaigns, deal with Internet security issues along the way, and fight against all the calamities associated with network security and data loss prevention. And it takes courage to handle the massive financial losses or career reversals that can unexpectedly occur in the course of building an empire. For example, Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded.

It’s only natural to assume that these CEOs must have extraordinary mental talents to be able to invent new technological systems, detect emerging marketing trends, and make a fortune from opportunities that most people failed to notice in the first place.

However, what may surprise you is that this is often not the case. A number of CEOs and entrepreneurs have learning disabilities, the most common being dyslexia.

Against all reasonable assumptions, they have often managed to turn their weaknesses into strengths or found a way to make their weaknesses irrelevant.

Here are four stories of famous people who have created high-tech companies that changed the world. They did not let their disabilities slow them down, and have done things most people would consider bordering on the impossible.


According to Medical News Today,“Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material and is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling and decoding.”

Often people with dyslexia find it difficult to read because of reversals of numbers, letters or words

Three famous technologists who suffered from dyslexia were Steve Jobs, who founded Apple; Bill Hewlett, who started Hewlett Packard; and John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco Systems.

Steve Jobs

Steven Paul Jobs was an American inventor, visionary, and tech entrepreneur. He co-founded Apple, Inc, and served as its chief executive and chairman. He was also the CEO of Pixar, the American computer animation film studio in Emeryville, California famous for making Toy Story.

He is well-known for his thought-provoking quotes about the nature of innovation:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Although dyslexia made it difficult for him to read, it didn’t stop him from his prolific urge to make a dent in the universe in the world computers, animation films, and telecommunications.

Bill Hewlett

American engineer William Redington Hewlett and David Packard founded the computer manufacturing company Hewlett-Packard. At one time, it was the second largest computer company in the world. He also founded Agilent Technologies, Hewlett Foundation, and Public Policy Institute of California.

John Chambers

Executive chairman and former CEO of Cisco Systems John Thomas Chambers did not let dyslexia stop him from running the famous multinational technology company that designs, makes, and sells networking equipment.

He not only managed a multinational company, but he also wrote the popular book, “The Truth about Networking for Success: The Top Tips to Becoming a Great Networker, the Facts You Should Know.”

Asperger’s Syndrome

Here is how WebMD describes it. “Asperger's syndrome, also called Asperger's disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.”

Often people with Asperger’s syndrome find it difficult to get a job because of difficulties in socializing with others and communicating their interests.

Bram Cohen did not let his Asperger’s syndrome stop him from becoming one of the top computer programmers in the world by creating a disruptive protocol that changed the Internet.

Bram Cohen

American computer programmer Bram Cohen authored the peer-to-peer protocol called BitTorrent. He also authored the first file sharing program that used the BitTorrent protocol.

Essentially, what the protocol does is allow users to transfer huge amounts of information over the Internet.

He did not have a learning disorder, but many psychologists consider Asperger’s syndrome a disorder that falls within the autism spectrum.

Bram Cohen turned Asperger’s syndrome to his advantage because it gave him a deeper interest in patterns and puzzles than most people have the patience to figure out.

Making A Dent in the Universe

Despite difficulties that would have stopped most people in their tracks, these four technology innovators have changed the world in a significant way. What is particularly impressive is that they excelled in a field that requires tremendous study and knowledge to excel in.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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