The Wisdom of Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences like autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.  This represents a new way of looking at conditions that have traditionally been considered pathological.  This new perspective has come about in part through the recognition by scientists that autism, ADHD, and other conditions emerge through a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental interaction, rather than being;the result of disease or injury.

A follow-on to the concept of neurodiversity is that people with differences do not need to be “cured;” but welcomed and accommodated instead. Proponents of neurodiversity see a range of thinking, learning and cognitive styles that lie on the edges of the bell curve as a valuable resource that can foster greater creativity and innovation, and ultimately greater human progress.

Today, most managers are familiar with the advantages their organizations can achieve by fostering diversity in the backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender, culture, and other individual qualities of employees. However, while the benefits from neurodiversity are similar, they are more direct. Because neurodiverse people are wired differently from “neurotypical” people, they can bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “a growing number of prominent companies have reformed their HR processes in order to access neurodiverse talent; among them are SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Microsoft, Willis Towers Watson, Ford, and EY. Many others, including Caterpillar, Dell Technologies, Deloitte, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, and UBS, have start-up or exploratory efforts under way.”

Still, statistics show that nuerodiverse individuals are underemployed relative to the general population. It is not so much a matter of skills as the hiring process itself. The key tool in the hiring process for most firms is still the interview; and neurodiverse people often do not interview well. Second, many firms are built around scalable processes that require an emphasis on compliance to standardized procedures. Neurodiverse individuals need to be allowed to deviate from standardized processes.

However, as many firms focus more on innovation, they are beginning to value and invest in neurodiversity by changing hiring and work practices. This is especially true in the tech sector where the mantra is “innovate or die.”. As our understanding of the human brain expands, the wisdom of neurodiversity in all areas of human endeavor seems destined to become a recognized essential ingredient of innovation and achievement.

Neurodiversity – the key that unlocked my world

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  1. Dennis

    Point we’ll taken. But to say there shouldn’t be a cure sounds just as insensitive as the “innovate or die” mantra in the other direction. Disorders suck and are horrible to have.