The man who used his dyslexia to make millions

by Ilaria Lonigro - 2016.07.14
The man who used his dyslexia to make millions
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Ikea is an empire that was born from dyslexia. Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of the Swedish furniture giant, did well at school as a boy despite his dyslexia. This prompted Ingvar's father to give his son a reward, which was just a small amount, seeing as he worked as a forester. But instead of spending the money, 17-year-old Ingvar invested it. His investment paid off and, in 1943, he opened his first furniture factory, called Ikea, an acronym that stands for Ingvar Kamprad from Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, the town that was his childhood home.

Thanks to dyslexia, he had become a business man. The truth is that Kamprad was immediately able to use his disability to give him an advantage on the market. A typical example is the Ikea furniture names, which are impossible to pronounce for non-Scandinavians but are so strange that everyone remembers them. This move was motivated, not by his business acumen as many thought, but by the fact that this was the only way he could catalogue the names of the products. This logic may seem odd but to Kamprad, the number codes of the products looked like double-Dutch.

Each piece of Ikea furniture has its own name. Beds and wardrobes are named after places in Norway (Malm, Hermes, etc.), chairs and tables are named after men (Ingo, Stefan, etc.), curtains after women (Mariam, Werna, Aina, etc). Garden furniture and sofas have names inspired by islands (Tärnö, Äpplarö) or Swedish cities (Vallentuna, Kivik), while carpets are named after other Scandinavian places (Hampen or Stockholm). To remember the names, Kamprad needed to visualise and associate them with something definite.

The multinational company, with 258 stores in 37 countries, is now run by his three sons. But the 90-year-old Mister Ikea continues to lead his business like a lion, with the same entrepreneurial spirit he had as a child, when he sold matches door to door, or fish and Christmas decorations. But this is just another success story in the long but little known list of dyslexics who have changed history. They include: Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Hans Christian Andersen, Thomas Edison, F. Scott Fitzgerald... shall I go on?

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