Doing Creativity Differently with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD have an innate creative potential that could put them among an organization’s most valued emplyees. According to recent research, reported in Science Daily, adults with ADHD approach creative tasks differently and feel empowered when doing them. These are important attribute in an economy where innovation is highly prized.

Researchers at the University of Michigan studied a group of college students with and without ADHD who were compared on lab tasks of creativity. For example, in one task, students were asked to invent an “alien fruit” that might exist on another planet but is different from a fruit known to exist on Earth. Non-ADHD participants typically modeled their creations after specific common fruits, such as an apple or strawberry. Participants with ADHD created “alien fruits” that differed more from typical Earth fruit, and were more original, compared to non-ADHD participants. In another task, participants were asked to invent labels for new products in three categories without copying the examples provided. The ADHD group created labels that were more unique and less similar to the examples provided, compared to the non-ADHD group.

Study author Holly White said the research indicates that individuals with ADHD may be more flexible in tasks that require creating something new, and less likely to rely on examples and previous knowledge.Theymay be less prone to design fixation – the tendency to get stuck in a rut – and are less likely to stick closely to what already exists when creating a new product.

This approach to creative design and problem solving in the real world could be very important to employers, when the goal is to create or invent something new without being overly constrained by old models or ways of doing things.

A Polish clinician Kazimierz Dabrowski, M.D., Ph.D., often cited in literature on gifted and high ability people, discovered that these people shared many characteristics of those diagnosed with ADHD, including “overexcitabilities” or unusually intense nervous system functioning in the following areas:

  • Psychomotor
  • Sensuality
  • Imagination
  • Intellectual behavior
  • Emotionality

The University of Michigan research provides more confirmation that the characteristics of ADHD can be an asset in creative endeavors. It also means that for those with ADHD, finding the right career to allow that creativity to flourish is essential.


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