Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s could easily have been a victim of ADHD, but managed to leverage it into successful career as an entrepreneur. He didn’t know initially that he had ADHD. But he learned to use the particular characteristics of his ADHD brain to develop a successful enterprise that has become an icon of American business life.
ADHD is most often talked about in the context of problems it can cause – related to distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. But new research is showing that the ADHD brain can be particularly effective at three types of cognition that form the basis of creative thinking: divergent thinking, conceptual expansion and overcoming knowledge constraints. In a world where innovation and creativity are more highly prized, the ADHD mind can be a valuable asset.
Katherine Ellison has achieved many things in her life. She has been a foreign correspondent in Latin America, the author of 5 books on practical neuroscience, and a Pulitzer Prize winner at age 27. She also has ADHD. One of her most popular works, Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention, was a memoir and journalistic overview of a year spent coping with ADHD after both she and her 12-year-old son were diagnosed with the disorder. In fact, it was her son’s diagnosis that ultimately led to her own.
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 attributes to have in an economy where innovation is highly prized, and means finding the right career to allow that creativity to flourish is essential..
October is ADHD Awareness Month. Our understanding of ADHD has steadily progressed since it was first formally recognized as a medical condition. For those with ADHD, life can be a constant struggle. Yet, some of the world’s most accomplished people have have overcome their diagnosis and leveraged their ADHD “super powers” to achieve extraordinary success in their field. Here are some of their inspiring stories.
The interventions for ADHD that are most often discussed are medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, coaching, support groups, and/or changes in the home, work, or school environments. Other tools can include exercise, meditation, a healthy diet, and good sleep. One intervention that is not typically highlighted is music therapy. Research suggests that music could benefit someone with ADHD, by increasing dopamine levels) and thereby improving attention and executive functioning skills.
Children with ADHD and learning differences often struggle with intense emotions, poor social skills, and low self-esteem. Art therapy uses drawing, painting, and sculpting to improve well-being and confidence in kids. It is based on the premise that self-expression can be used to address emotional problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness.
Many highly successful entrepreneurs such as Sir Richard Branson, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, and JetBlue founder David Neeleman, have been diagnosed with ADHD or other conditions that result in executive function challenges. Some will even tell you that they are successful largely because of the “diagnosis,” not in spite of it. The results of some new research appears to agree with them.
There has been plenty written about the “disorder” aspects of ADHD – problems with attention, focus, impulsivity and executive function skills in general. But research studies seem to confirm that there is another side to the condition. It can bring with it, under the right circumstances, an ability to perform at extraordinary levels.