‘Being dyslexic helps me get creative’: one tech entrepreneur on her sources of inspiration

Pip Jamieson is the founder of The Dots, a professional network for creatives. Describing herself as “delightfully dyslexic”, Jamieson couldn’t read until she was 11. Nevertheless, she picked up a first in economics from the University of Edinburgh before going on to blaze a trail in the creative industries.

Throughout her career, she’s had to be both highly creative and tirelessly productive. She started out in the civil service, where she worked for David Blunkett, the former home secretary, before going on to pioneer several key projects at MTV, including the launch of MTV and Nickelodeon in New Zealand. After living in the southern hemisphere, she returned to the UK and founded The Dots in 2014.

Offering a professional networking space for those in the creative industries, The Dots quickly made its mark and now has nearly 1 million users, a membership that is 62% women and 31% Black, Asian and minority ethnic. This drive for representation has been at the forefront of Jamieson’s approach to the business from the beginning. She’s a big believer in the detrimental effects of homogeny and has worked tirelessly to cultivate diversity in her business.

She’s ideally placed to shed light on how to stay creative and inspired in both our work lives and personal lives.

Detail of canal boats

Being dyslexic helps me get creative when I’m under pressure. I count myself really lucky because I’m dyslexic and with that comes a natural aptitude for creativity. There’s a brilliant piece of research that Harvard University did that said dyslexic brains have better peripheral vision, so we’re taking in more data all the time. If you think about humans being the most sophisticated “robots” that exist for taking in all this data, we’re synthesising that into creative thought, and gut feeling and intuition.

If I’ve got a creative block, I go for a row. That’s definitely where my best creative inspiration comes from – when I let my mind drift and go elsewhere. I live on a houseboat called Horace, and I’ve got a rowboat called Little Horace. Going for a row lets my brain wander and start coming up with solutions. I love a good walk, too, and listening to any kind of podcasts and books that aren’t necessarily related to my work.

Mindfulness is massive for me when it comes to getting in the zone. I’ve got a lovely dog. She’s amazing for getting me out. I can get in the zone as long as I get a walk in the morning before I sit down at the computer. I also practise yoga, but perhaps not as much as I should do.

On Sundays I reboot by going to a patch of woodland I own. My husband’s an environmental consultant. We decided to go carbon neutral and looked into offset schemes, but you don’t really know where your money is going. So we ended up buying a patch of woodland on the East Sussex/Kent border. We’re regenerating it at the moment. I put my phone on to airplane mode, and I completely unplug. Being in nature and around trees – we planted nearly 100 oaks last year and I’ve named every single one – it’s like a whole day of mindfulness.

Starting something from scratch is probably the most creative thing I’ve ever done. Scaling up The Dots is a massive rollercoaster. I’ve grown an amazing team, we have nearly a million members and have worked with 10,000 brands [who hire creatives through the platform]. But every day there’s a new problem to solve. It’s incredibly rewarding but a lot of stress. Part of that is having to learn loads of new skills: how to raise investment, how to build and scale a team, how to scale a technology project. All of that I had to learn from scratch.

I’m only focused on the apps I love. I don’t have any notifications on my phone and I only use the apps that bring me value. I’ve deleted everything else. I came off Facebook and Insta[gram] years ago. I didn’t like LinkedIn, which is why I invented an alternative. Audible, I absolutely love. Obviously The Dots. I also love Pinterest. It just makes me happy. Apart from that, it’s yoga apps and tree identification apps.

Pip Jamieson photographed in Kings Cross for the Guardian
Detail of trees in a forest
Quote: "When we bought the woodland, I wanted to redesign it so I started [saving ideas] creating boards"

I use Pinterest in my personal life. I make boards for anything I’m trying to create. So with Whistle, our woodland, I’ve got a board where I’ve saved Pins of the things I want to put in the wood. We can’t build a house or anything like that but we’re starting to make magical areas with tables, fairy lights, benches and all of that. So I’ve done a lot of Pinterest inspiration boarding there. We also bought a cottage recently, so all my inspiration for that came from Pinterest.

When I’m on Pinterest, I’m looking for stuff to buy. It builds from my initial inspiration and cultivates a natural journey for me. It expands what I’m thinking about, the algorithm is amazing. I’ve always had visions for stuff I want to create in the wood but then [thanks to Pinterest’s suggestions] I’ll be like: “Oh, actually, maybe I could do this or maybe I could do that.” And then suddenly I’m deciding I want to build this crazy pagoda or a herb garden.

It all started with a very specific task. When we bought the woodland, I wanted to redesign it so I started [saving ideas] creating boards. Then I realised the power of Pinterest and started creating boards for pretty much every personal project, from new things for our houseboat (I’ve got a boat board) to new things for the cottage (I’ve got a wishlist of furniture I can’t afford). I had to do that first project to see the value of it. The algorithm is really smart. [The newsletter it generates] is probably one of the only newsletters I haven’t put into a spam folder. Once I’ve saved something, suddenly it sends me 10 amazing [ideas].

Of the six creative types identified by Pinterest’s Inspiration Nation research, I’m a Conscious Go-getter.

To find out more about Pinterest’s diverse audience check out their Inspiration Nation study: business.pinterest.com/inspirationnation