Neurodiversity: The Hidden Asset for Businesses
Yes, I know what you might be thinking but trust me: neurodiversity comes with way more pros than cons (and fun!). I’m a single mum and I have two children. I have ADHD, my daughter is autistic and my son has ADHD too. It has been tough but not impossible and one way or another, I’ve always just got on with things. My learning curve has been steep and has mainly been about trial and error as well as focusing on my strengths. This has been what has helped me the most in my career, working across different roles and industries including startups. I would love to share with you some of these strengths and the value they add to a business.
As psychologist Judy Singer aptly put it, who came up with the term “neurodiversity” in the late 1990s, neurodivergent brains simply work differently than others. Therefore, the objective of all businesses should be to promote their integration, offer them the necessary support so that they participate fully and thus obtain their full potential, which will benefit everyone.
But what is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the natural range of difference in human brain function, the various ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people think about things differently, have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.
So long pathologised as medical conditions to be mitigated, and even cured, are now seen as natural types of human neurocognitive variation and thanks to the ‘social model of disability’, the understanding of neurodivergent people’s challenges, normally defined and stereotyped, are the result of navigating societies and workplaces shaped solely for ‘neurotypicals’.
Most people are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects. However, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent like people with autism, ADHD/ADD, dyspraxia, dyslexia and other people with cognitive differences. Also, not many know that these are lifelong conditions, they can’t be ‘cured’ but they do not affect their intelligence.
As many businesses have already discovered, neurodiversity is extremely valuable in the workplace because neurodiverse people are “wired differently” from neurotypical people, they bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognise value. Despite this, much is still unknown to us today about the real benefits associated with neurodiversity and what it adds to a business. It is easy to focus on the challenges and to forget the strengths and talents.
How is neurodiversity relevant to my business?
In a workplace context, neurodiversity it’s an area of diversity and inclusion that refers to alternative thinking styles. These alternative thinking styles come with some unique strengths, such as an ability to spot patterns and trends, creativity, data-driven thinking, distinctive imagination, expression of ideas, among others. However, everyone is different and there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ neurodivergent person, so I’ve listed some of their amazing different strengths here:
Typical strengths include problem-solving, data-driven, analytical and logical thinking. Some have a strong ability to focus and concentrate for long periods of time. They can exceptionally assimilate and retain detailed information, and a highly technical ability in a specific work area. They can also find huge intrinsic enjoyment and satisfaction from working on tasks and projects that they find engaging, sometimes when such work syncs with their own personal (often, deep) interests. Also, autistic people frequently prove themselves punctual, reliable, dedicated and loyal employees.
The dyslexic brain lends itself to creativity, inventiveness and a big picture view rather than be focused on the little details. They are also known for powerful qualitative reasoning very valuable where existing data is limited. All these traits are likely key factors in the extraordinary link between dyslexia and entrepreneurship. Another notable trait is the ability to create a vision through visual narrative thinking and then use this vision to inspire others through powerful storytelling. Dyslexic people may also be comfortable with risk-taking and, like other neurodivergent, may also have developed resourcefulness and problem-solving skills.
People tend to be good at bold ‘big picture’ thinking, pattern-spotting, inferential reasoning and may come up with creative solutions to old problems. They are often resourceful, highly motivated having had a lifetime’s experience of problem-solving and of persistence in the face of adversity. They bring attributes such as resilience under pressure, empathy and listening skills
Tend to be comfortable taking risks, being at ease with uncertainty and pushing boundaries, no surprise, then, the particular prevalence amongst many entrepreneurs. Insightfulness, creative thinking and problem-solving. Remarkably composed in pressure situations that neurotypicals would likely find overwhelming. They multitask, but ONLY when challenged and very much contrary to stereotypes (and, indeed, the name ‘ADHD’), they are able to hyperfocus when in a state of ‘flow’ on a stimulating task, and without interruptions, is an oft-forgotten attribute of many ADHDers.
The Future of work is requiring innovation, fresh thinking, open mindset and diverse ways of addressing emerging challenges.
Top tip… ‘Accommodations’ (topic for another post) are very important – and not expensive – in minimising neurodivergent people’s impairments and get their full potential but for now, I’ll leave you with my best advice, and one of the best things you can do to keep their brains (and hearts) engaged: FOCUS on their strengths, a fantastic hidden asset.
I would love to read your comments and thoughts. If you want to connect and/or know more, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn.Neurodiversity