Neurodiversity and competitive advantage
With first hand experience of supporting my daughter who is talented but struggled with the mainstream school system, I have been drawn to find out how best we can nuture these individuals as they move into the workplace.
Having done some extensive reading this past few weeks on the subject, its seems that their 'out of the box' thinking and amazing ability to focus on the minutiae of detail (just some examples of skills) could be of real benefit within the workplace.
So how do we tap into the talents of this unique group to not only enrich their lives but ours aswell?
A recent article from Harvard Business Review discusses how a neurodiverse workforce could help a company gain competitive advantage if the right support is in place for these individuals.
Pilot programmes at SAP and Microsoft are leading the way and Silicon Valley is recognising the potential neurodiversity of its workforce. In his award winning book NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman points out that the incidence of autism is particularly high in places like Silicon Valley (for reasons not completely understood). He and others have hypothesized that many of the industry’s “oddballs” and “nerds” might well have been “on the spectrum,” although undiagnosed. Hiring for neurodiversity, then, could be seen as an extension of the tendencies of a culture that recognizes the value of nerds.
Thorkil Sonne founded the firm Specialistern in 2004, motivated by the autism diagnosis of his third child. Over the next several years it developed and refined non-interview methods for assessing, training, and managing neurodiverse talent and demonstrated the viability of its model by running a successful for-profit company focused on software testing.
The company changed its name to Specialisterne Foundation in 2008 to spread his company’s know-how to others and persuade multinationals to start neurodiversity programs.
Within Scotland Catriona Stewart PHD set up Scottish Women in Autism Network (SWAN) to support women and is interested in mentoring for the workplace. Morna Simpson from Girl Geek Scotland has been busy, via her network of volunteers, in running a number of initiatives to increase awareness of diversity in the workplace and mentoring.
So the seeds of understanding and nurturing diversity are being promoted through organisations such as these.
The full Harvard Business Review article can be accessed here: Neurodiversity is a competitive advantage.
This is an area that I have a personal interest in supporting so I am particularly interested in finding companies and neurodiverse mentoring programmes that are already in place in Scotland, so please do get in touch.