I recently saw a programme with Peter Jones – The tall one from Dragons Den – and he was talking to successful entrepreneurs. Interestingly it wasn’t just about how they’d made their millions but a study into what makes them think in the way that they do. One of the entrepreneurs story was very interesting. Chris Dawson, who set up The Range used to be a market trader and now is a multimillionaire retailer. However, like many other famous faces he is also dyslexic. He said he can now read, but he still cannot write.

It was a good thing I saw this show ahead of our recent interviewing process…

At PB we have decided to recruit an apprentice. Following on from a member of staff who recently left after just a few weeks in the role it made sense to give the position we had available to someone who wanted more than just the money, but also the potential for a qualification and a future.

As usual applicants came along in many different shapes, sizes and abilities. One lady bought a Tesco carrier bag in with her. Another had such a strange handshake I wanted to shower afterwards!

I’ve learned over the years that the usual style of interview is not enough. Just because someone says they can do the job and say so convincingly, it doesn’t mean anything until you actually see them do it. So now we have a process whereby as well as the Q & A bit, they also have to complete a short quiz and then stick around for an hour doing practical tasks that would be involved in the job itself.

During the quiz section, there is a question which asks the candidate to list all of the equipment they think we would need to take to an event with us, then there are spaces where the answers should be filled in on the lined spaces on the page.

One candidate looked at this page in a rather puzzled way. He then said “Are these lines for the answers?” To which I said yes.

However after he had gone, I took a look at his quiz papers and he had not filled out the answers in the lined spaces, not at all. Instead he had written his answers sideways down the margin.

It was one of the strangest things I have ever seen. In my mind it was so obvious what needed to happen, it was a bit like watching someone eat a banana with the skin still on. I just couldn’t understand how he could get it so wrong when the instructions seemed so obvious.

I showed the sheet to other people and they were puzzled too. Clearly my instructions were understandable to the vast population but to this chap, something very different had been understood.

Then later that night I began to think about how he had written what he had written. And also how it had gone in that direction after what had been a very confident and articulate interview process before the quiz. At that point I realised that this young man just didn’t think in straight lines in the way most of us do. Most of us can see this symbol for example + and know that it is a plus sign. If there were numbers either side of it we’d know what we needed to do. However that only applies if you think in straight lines.

When you think sideways “normal/regular” “logic” is not relevant. Because there are other ways of thinking instead that take a more definite priority than the “logical” ones.

For a sideways thinker, a + might be a crucifix, a star, a first aid point or the place where the treasure is buried. And yet for the frustrated parents and teachers whose children give those answers or think those thoughts instead of seeing it as a plus sign, their thinking may be perceived as odd, or worse still, wrong.

I realised that the chap who had come for the interview, working as an admin assistant within PB is probably not the job best suited to his talents. We need to be able to work with the regular logic people in that particular role. However, with that kind of sideways thinking I predict a bright future for him. Like Chris Dawson in the Peter Jones show who couldn’t do the regular tasks in school but learned to put his “thinking differently” to good use, I suspect our candidate will probably go on to achieve much the same thing.