5 reasons why dyslexics make top spies

in Features

In honour of International Dyslexic Awareness week, which takes place from the 5th – 11th October, the Gibraltar Dyslexia Support Group are promoting a series of articles showing how being Dyslexic can be a positive in the workplace.

What skills does it take to become a top spy – keeping your nation safe from cyber-attack, foreign espionage and terrorist threats? Stand-out school results? A degree from a top university? How about being dyslexic? 

Britain’s digital intelligence agency, GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) actively recruits for dyslexic thinkers, based on their unique skill set. It has 3 times the number of dyslexic employees, recruiting over 120 in 2014 alone. But this neuro-diverse recruitment strategy isn’t a recent development. It has prided itself on recruiting people who think differently since it was founded in 1919. 

The head of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, explains:

“We see the impact of nation states and terror groups using technology to achieve their harmful agenda. And tackling these challenges requires people who can connect ideas, think visually and use their intuition. These are qualities we see a lot of in our dyslexic colleagues.” Jeremy Fleming, Director of GCHQ 

But what makes dyslexic minds ‘mission critical’ to protecting our nation’s security? 

Here are 5 reasons why dyslexics make brilliant spies: 

We see the big picture (Visioning). 

Dyslexic brains are ‘wired’ differently. The left parietal temporal area of our brains uses different neural pathways. That helps people with dyslexia to think differently. We are naturally good at ‘Reasoning’ skills which make us adept at stepping back from the detail and seeing the big picture. 

 We can spot patterns others can’t (Deciding). 

While dyslexics may struggle with skills like spelling, punctuation and grammar, they are experts at seeing patterns that others can’t. This could be a pattern of behaviour, communication or way to crack a code. It is no surprise that the most famous code-breaker in Britain, Alan Turing, was Made By Dyslexia. As a cryptanalyst based at Bletchley Park during World War II, he broke the Nazi’s Enigma code because of his ability to see things from various three-dimensional viewpoints, discern patterns and solve nearly impossible problems. Today, many more dyslexic analysts use their reasoning skills to encrypt systems to keep our nation safe or detect and dismantle systems which seek to do our country harm. 

We use our intuition to connect the dots. 

Dyslexics often talk about having sudden leaps of insight that help them solve problems in an unconventional way. We use our intuition, and while it may look like daydreaming to others, it is actually our brains thinking around a problem and connecting the dots of insight. It’s not just spies who use their dyslexic strengths in this way; politicians, diplomats and communicators do too, in the service of our country. 

Andrew Pike OBE, Ex Director, International Communications, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications, explains how he uses his dyslexic strengths to his advantage:

“I have an unconventional route to problem solving and find alternative and creative ways to figure things out, I’ve learnt to play to my dyslexic strengths.” 

Solving problems creatively and using lateral thinking is a crucial requirement for many of the workforce at GCHQ. Beth Sizeland, Director General of Strategy at GCHQ says: 

“We’ve got thousands of examples where dyslexia has given us the critical edge in problem solving” 

When the threats come thick and fast from hostile governments, terrorist groups and state-controlled hacktivists, the stakes in solving those problems couldn’t be higher.

 We are gifted analysts 

The dyslexic mind is extraordinarily good at sifting through large amounts of information, and picking out the key parts.

Jeremy Fleming, head of GCHQ, explains: 

“Across all of our missions, we have people who are dyslexic, and play a vital role in keeping the country safe”…“I have everyone from the country’s best mathematicians, to our most talented engineers, and our best analysts, and I can see dyslexics among every one of those.” 

 We are brilliant at simplifying 

People who are Made By Dyslexia are adept at understanding, taking apart and simplifying complex ideas. This might involve simplifying huge data systems, vast amounts of complex information or picking out a digital trail from millions of imprints online. 

The power of thinking differently

It’s undoubted that the dyslexic strengths of seeing the big picture, spotting patterns, using your intuition to solve impenetrable digital puzzles, simplifying complex info and analysing data all mean that dyslexics are an invaluable part of the mix when it comes to our intelligence service. As Jeremy Fleming says: 

“We’re only going to be successful if we make the most of those who see things differently. Our dyslexic colleagues are mission critical to GCHQ.”

There’s much the rest of the world can learn from this mindset. All of society benefits by harnessing the power of thinking differently. 

Watch the Game Changers panel from our 2019 Global Summit to understand more about the vital role dyslexic thinking will play in all our futures. 

For more information, please contact the Gibraltar Dyslexia Support Group on: Tel: +350 200 78509 / Mob: +350 5400 7924 / Email: info@dyslexia.gi

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