How dyslexia helped to create IKEA

A young boy in Sweden had some difficulties at school because he struggled with his reading and writing. It turned out he was dyslexic. Despite this, he managed to perform well in his studies, and his father gave him some money as a reward. He used this to start a business aged 17. It’s name? IKEA.

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IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad passed away recently, and much has been said about his life and legacy. I want to highlight the positive impact his dyslexia had – as it has on many other entrepreneurs and high-achieving people across all sectors. I’m sure his dyslexia drove him to focus upon the things he was good at, and become expert at finding others who could excel in the areas he struggled.

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It also led to some interesting innovations. Take the unique names of IKEA’s furniture. Having started IKEA as a mail order sales business (snap!) his products were identified by individual codes. As many dyslexics would, he struggled to remember the numbers. So he decided to create a new system, naming each set of furniture after memorable Swedish names, and places. The system has been used ever since and is renowned around the world.

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Then consider the distinct assembly instructions for IKEA products. They are all pictures – no words. For a dyslexic who sees the world in a visual way, that makes perfect sense. It also became an iconic part of IKEA’s appeal.

So next time you have an Allen key in hand, building an IKEA bookcase or a desk (as I remember doing when Holly went to university), it’s worth remembering the role dyslexia played in creating a beloved brand.

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