The creative spark and dyslexia

In commenting on Gillian Tett’s “How to ignite the creative spark” (FT August 16/17 2014) Mereengineer (FT Magazine, Issue number 577) comments on only one aspect of her account, namely that of creating an ‘open-ended’ environment composed of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. To quote Mereengineer: “If you put a bunch of bright conscientious people together and give them some freedom without too many targets or asinine efficiency dictats from above, some will probably come up with some useful innovations – for example, the World Wide Web or Higgs Boson. Unfortunately, these environments are getting scarce in the era of ‘management knows best’. ”

Mereengineer failed to comment on the other condition cited by Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, around which Tett’s article was constructed. Cosgrove is a heart surgeon who, confronted with the problem arising from using a rigid ring to help restore the shape of a heart valve after surgery, invented a flexible ring by combining the requirements of heart surgery with embroidery.  Cosgrove attributed his “aha” moment of serendipity to at least two things. Tett cited his severe dyslexia, which he thinks meant that he had always been forced to improvise in creative ways. And to the need constantly to create situations where specialists can collide with new ideas.

The condition of ‘severe dyslexia’, in this context surely deserves some comment. Gillian Tett’s sentiment, generally, is to call a spade “a spade” and a pen “a pen”. Here, however, she fails to question the implications of a self-identified reading / writing difficulty, medicalized as dyslexia. She even uncritically accepts the quantifier ‘severe’.

Four comments are in order:

  • how many degrees of dyslexia does Tett suppose exist?
  • how did Cosgrove ever  qualify as a surgeon if suffered severe reading / writing problems? Was he offered a reader and an amanuensis, or did he use text-to-speech / speech software?
  • Cosgrove’s implied ego-centric view that dyslexics are more creative than non-dyslexics is not borne out by the evidence, consider for example Richard Feynmann!
  • in light of the introduction to Dr Barbara Sattler’s “The Converted Left Hander and the Knot in the Brain” it would be interesting to know with which hand Cosgrove both tried to write and conducted his surgery.

About petermathews

Member of the Royal Society of Medicine
This entry was posted in Common Ground, Dyslexia, Dyslexic, Hands, Labelling, Psychologists, scientific and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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