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Dr Helen Taylor

Dr Helen Taylor

Helen is a Research Associate & Project Lead for the project Complementary Cognition, Entrepreneurship & Societal Adaptation Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde.

Dyslexia was not well recognised when she was younger so she was not diagnosed until university. She had been asked to leave because she could not keep up but by chance discovered her struggles with writing were due to dyslexia. She went on to finish her degree and got scholarships to do a masters at UCL and the University of Cambridge.

She had to take much longer to do her degrees because she has a lot of difficulty reading and writing but over the years she began to understand that she struggled not due to how she thought but the over-focus on writing and the way that education and academia is structured. This inspired her to change the direction of her research to understand not what was wrong with the minds of people with dyslexia, but to understand why this way of thinking existed and what it was for.

This led her to do many years of research in multiple fields including cognitive psychology, evolution, archaeology and business - the common thread being complex adaptive systems.

Through her research she is working to show that dyslexia-associated cognition has been misunderstood. She has developed an evolutionary theory which proposes that our ancestors evolved to specialise and process information to ‘think’ in different but complementary ways that work together as a higher level system, a kind of collective brain. She calls this the evolution of Complementary Cognition. Helen proposes that the form of cognition we have diagnosed as ‘dyslexia’ is actually integral to how our species adapts to change. Through her work she is finding dyslexia-associated thinking is critical to successful adaptation to change at all levels from business to society as a whole.

Every single person has strengths and weaknesses. So far we have focused primarily on dyslexic weaknesses, but these thinkers have the potential to be some of the most imaginative and inventive minds in our society. Her research shows that it is essential that we nurture the strengths of this way of thinking in order to work towards a more adaptable sustainable society.

Dr. Taylor's research was featured in a BBC documentary in 2018, was presented to the Swedish Royal Family in June 2019 and also featured in their book ‘Love Dyslexia’. This year she gave the keynote at the Barclays-EY Thinking Differently Summit attended by 60 people from 20 organisations as well as speaking at the World Economic Forum. She is passionate about raising awareness of the importance of dyslexia associated cognition and it’s critical importance in working towards a sustainable society.

Find out more about Complementary Cognition here.