12 neurodiversity strengths that come from thinking differently

From absorbing information to drawing connections, there are several strengths that come from thinking differently and having neurodiverse teams in the workplace. Here, twelve business leaders and HR professionals share with us what they think are the biggest strengths that come from thinking differently.

1. Ability to Recognize Where You Flourish

Neurodivergent people often know what their strengths and weaknesses are, which is built from a lifetime of creating workarounds to allow them to reach their full potential. I recently discussed with a person on the autistic spectrum, what he felt was his key strength. He was absolutely clear that because he thought differently and had done all his life he was able, over time, to identify what his brain was doing and therefore find suitable employment where he could flourish. For those who don’t think differently, it is more difficult to identify their own niche of thought. The saying "once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person" is utterly true and the power comes from being able to recognize your unique strengths.

- Andrew Hatfield, neurodiverse-hr -

2. Listen Hard, Change Fast

1 in 7 people has a neurodivergent condition. It’s estimated that in the global adult population that 10% are dyslexic, 5% are dyspraxic, 4% have ADHD, and 1-2% are autistic. While these statistics may signal a challenge, neurodiversity can also shine a light on a lot of strengths from thinking differently. In my experiences with neurodiversity, the biggest strengths that come from thinking differently can be cultivated by leaders by simply getting to know employees. Managers and leaders can schedule monthly 1-on-1 meetings to seek the perspectives of employees. In these meetings, it’s important to listen hard, and change fast! By gaining insights from people with neurodivergent conditions, employers can discover the benefits neurodiversity can bring to an organization. 

- Brett Farmiloe, Markitors -

3. Diversity

Neurodiversity urges us to discuss brain diversity using the same kind of discourse that we would use when talking about biodiversity and cultural diversity. It can lead to the betterment of a company by hiring individuals that think differently and have different perspectives and opinions about problems and challenges at hand. Diversity in any sense should be seen as a strength and something that companies should try to implore more of. 

- Vicky Franko, Insura -

4. Absorbing Information

Thinking differently places you in a unique position to address challenges in a way that others would not. One of my favorite examples of this comes from Malcom Gladwell. He tells the story of David Boies who grew up with dyslexia and struggled in the classroom. Because reading was so difficult for him, David developed incredible listening skills, allowing him to absorb extraordinary amounts of information. This skill benefited David immensely as he worked toward his law degree. Today, he is one of the top litigators in the United States. 

- Michael Herion, Carrot Eye Center -

5. Innovation

The ability to think differently and think outside of the box is an extremely marketable skill and one that employers look for. It was considered that Albert Einstein was dull-witted during childhood but grew up to be one of the brightest minds of our time. It is all about perception! Yes, he thought differently than most people, and look how he turned out!

When I founded InterviewFocus, a mock interview platform, I wanted to make sure it could be used by anyone and everyone to better their interview skills. People that think differently and innovatively still have to get through interviews to be considered for a job. By practicing these skills, people can change how they are perceived by interviewers and they can be noticed for what matters; their work ethic, intelligence, and skill set. 

- Craig Rosen, InterviewFocus -

6. Passion For Social Justice and Fairness

Many neurodivergent people are strongly focused on social justice. What some consider rigid hyperfocus on rules can be better understood as a natural tendency to intensely believe in the import of fairness and justice. This focus on fairness, combined with deep empathy, leads to individuals who will fight passionately to protect the welfare of the disenfranchised and the environment. The belief that neurodivergent individuals are not empathetic is stunningly inaccurate for many. In fact, the opposite is often true - they may become so distressed by the violations of someone's rights, or by seeing someone in distress, that they simply shut down and can't react in a way that neurotypical people interpret as empathetic. A very minor example of this is evident in the number of neurodivergent people who become physically distressed by watching someone in a movie embarrass themselves socially. The discomfort they feel watching a movie where someone endures minor social harm can transform into an overwhelming pain when they witness significant harm in the real world. 

- Cady M. Stanton, Facilitate Joy! -

7. Challenging Old Habits

My role at Stack Recruitment means I get to speak to fantastic neurodiverse job-seekers on a daily basis, so I see some incredible skills and talent. I would say the biggest strength of being neurodivergent is that in itself, the ability to think differently compared to neurotypical people. I think often we get so set in our ways and so used to sticking to the status quo, that we often don’t have time to look at new ways of doing things or challenge our own thoughts. An employer I worked with told me a story about how he hired an autistic accountant to run their accounts. Within a week, the new accountant had come into their financial meetings, told them everything they were doing wrong, and had come up with new ways to save money and promote their sales. The employer said he had never had anyone tell him so honestly about their financial position and it saved the company. Recruiting neurodiverse individuals really can have huge benefits for an employer.

- Emily Banks, Stack Recruitment -

8. Adding Purposeful Value

Being neurodivergent is becoming the norm and widely accepted, whether this it’s dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, Tourette’s syndrome or perhaps having a hearing impairment. Having lived with ADHD myself, the biggest strength I have found is adding a different perspective, adding purposeful value including creativity and lateral thinking. Neurodivergent people also commonly hold highly specialized skills.

- Ben Cheema, TechTalent Academy -

9. Questioning How Things Are Currently Done 

In a business environment that is fast-paced and ever-evolving, it is a strength to have neurodiverse team members thinking differently and challenging the norms. Having taken on a task at work that had been done the same way for years, because ‘that’s the way it has always been done’, my autistic mind craved to make it more efficient. Where others were complacent to follow the norm, a life lived differently means I question how things are done and seek to improve them. I re-built the process, which saved hours of work a week because my mind could not comprehend leaving it in the inefficient manner it was before. Thinking differently means questioning how things are done, it means seeing solutions to problems where others don’t even see a problem.

- Rosie Weldon, Zodeq -

10. Stellar Imagination

There are many gifts, but one of the greatest that neurodivergent individuals possess (due to their minds being wired differently) is stellar imaginations which leads to incredible creativity! Since creative thinking is one of the most important assets a company can have, within the last decade companies have begun creating programs specifically targeting neurodivergent thinkers, like SAP’s Autism at Work, and Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program. These and other companies are finding measurable success from hiring neurodiverse talent that brings their natural curiosity, logical thinking, and unique perspectives to increase innovation and solve problems. To learn more about neurodiverse career opportunities from inclusive companies I recommend checking out Exceptional Individuals.

- Anita Scott, Evolving Humankind on LinkedIn -

11. Drawing Connections

I think the biggest strength that comes from my experience with neurodiversity, is my ability to make connections most neurotypicals miss. I have a nonverbal learning disability (NLD). Two facets of my NLD are a phenomenal long-term memory, and an ability to hyper-focus on individual details. When you combine those two, you get the ability to draw connections between things that seem completely unrelated. I won’t just remember something other people forget, I’ll remember the one detail that ties everything together.

- Geoff Hoppe, Neurodiverse Content Marketer -

12. Better Understanding Your Consumer Base

Working in the field of recruiting for 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of time helping clients build teams. When my daughter was diagnosed with autism a few months before her 3rd birthday, my world changed in so many ways. For five years I’ve been on a learning and advocacy mission for meaningful work opportunities for neurodivergent adults. I see so many strengths for a company that supports its neurodivergent staff. An inclusive neurodiverse company is more productive, more innovative, more reflective of its consumer base, more competitive for all talent, and its total employee engagement increases. Different minds can approach a company’s products, services, and business challenges with different solutions.

- Stephanie Ranno, TorchLight Hire -

Webinar: Conscious Disability Inclusion Strategies

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Listen to the recording to gain practical strategies to help you tackle unconscious bias and foster conscious inclusion.

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