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Mining the Diversity of the Neurodiverse Through Inclusion

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and usually that is in the context of characteristics we commonly associate with notions of diversity: race, religion, sex, ethnicity, etc. Recently, Robert D. Austin and Gary P. Pisano wrote an article for Harvard Business Review that looks at a rarely-studied form of diversity: “Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage.”

In the article, Austin and Pisano look at a growing trend in American business towards recognizing the potential contributions of those with various neurological conditions, such as autism, ADHD, social anxiety disorders and others. They term this group “neurodiverse.”

Currently, the focus is primarily on autism, which is relatively prevalent; however, the authors note that this is changing. “The incidence of autism in the United States is now 1 in 42 among boys and 1 in 189 among girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the authors note. They also point out that, while most corporate programs have focused on autistic people, that focus is expanding to include those with other disorders such as dyslexia, ADHD and social anxiety disorders. They write: “Many people with these disorders have higher-than-average abilities; research shows that some conditions, including autism and dyslexia, can bestow special skills in pattern recognition, memory, or mathematics. Yet those affected often struggle to fit the profiles sought by prospective employers.”

The authors note that many well-known companies have taken steps through their HR processes to overcome some of the difficulties that neurodiverse people can have when attempting to navigate traditional recruitment and job application scenarios.

These companies see a real potential benefit in connecting with this group. That insight is a natural extension of the recognition that diversity can pay dividends to business. “Most managers are familiar with the advantages organizations can gain from diversity in the backgrounds, disciplinary training, gender, culture, and other individual qualities of employees,” Austin and Pisano write. “Benefits from neurodiversity are similar but more direct. Because neurodiverse people are wired differently from ‘neurotypical’ people, they may bring new perspectives to a company’s efforts to create or recognize value.”

This story provides an excellent example of the real-world business examples of encouraging diversity. We believe that diversity and inclusion are positive from a values standpoint, but we’re businesspeople. We recognize the very positive business impacts that diversity and inclusion can create for organizations. That includes diversity and inclusion among neurodiverse individuals. Have you taken any steps to evaluate opportunities you may have with this group? Be inclusive!

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