A week to celebrate the cognitive differences in all of us

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Thought Leadership

Everyone is different. There’s no single “right” way when it comes to how we think, learn and behave. Which is why ‘Neurodiversity’ (the term that describes these differences) has become such an important conversation for individuals, employers, communities, economies and society as a whole.

This week (13th-19th March) is Neurodiversity Celebration Week across the world, and CCR is celebrating this fascinating and crucial field, by exploring the strengths and needs of neurodivergent people – and, in particular, what we can do to understand and harness the wide spectrum of neurodiverse talent that’s proven to make our organisations more resilient, creative and productive.  

Celebrating the cognitive differences in all of us

Neurodiversity Celebration Week challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences – for very good reason, as an increasing number of organisations value the talents of neurodiverse minds, recognising the fresh perspectives and valuable skills they bring, to a world searching for fresh answers to new challenges and opportunities. 

Deloitte estimates that between 10% and 20% of the global population is considered neurodivergent – and while neurodivergent people may experience some difficulties, they also have certain strengths. 

Teams with neurodivergent professionals in some roles can be 30% more productive than those without them – with the inclusion and integration of neurodivergent professionals bringing the added benefit of boosting team morale, Deloitte reports.

Yes, there is also a greater incidence of mental health challenges – such as anxiety, depression, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD – found amongst neurodiverse individuals. But there are priceless attributes too. So what are those ‘neurodivergent’ strengths? Writing on neurodiversity and workplace opportunity for the World Economic Forum,  Nahia Orduña, explains that:

  • Autistic brains are said to be highly creative with exceptional concentration, logic, imagination and visual thought. They also tend to be systematic, meticulous and detailed and share unique insights and perspectives in problem-solving.
  • People with ADHD have great imagination and score higher on creativity tests than non-ADHD people. ADHD people can hyperfocus, which means that while they generally have an attention deficit, they do have a high focus on their area of interest.
  • Dyslexic people have demonstrated the ability to think outside the box: 84% of dyslexic people are above average in reasoning, understanding patterns, evaluating possibilities and making decisions, according to the charity Made by Dyslexia.

30% more productivity with neurodivergent people

With neurodivergent teams proven to be 30% more productive than those without them, it’s time to see ‘neurodiversity’ for what it really is: an umbrella term that describes the cognitive differences in all of us. And as Sparta Global’s recent EqualTech report showed, the unique insights neurodiverse professionals bring to tech (for example) may form a crucial part of the answer to deep skills shortages: 

“The global unemployment rate for people on the spectrum sits at around 80%” says the Sparta Global study. “With the UK government reporting that we could face a shortage of 900,000 skilled IT workers by next year, the neurodiverse community presents perspectives and skills that could be transformative. Consider people on the autism spectrum. They are known to have extraordinary cognitive abilities linked to memory, concentration, and analysis – skills most relevant in the digital and tech space.”

So hiring and positive action across the employment of neurodiverse talent is not only the right thing to do to promote inclusion – it’s also an intelligent business decision that provides compelling competitive advantages.

How can we fully embrace neurodivergent people in the workplace and society?

While many companies are recognising the benefits of hiring neurodivergent employees, the majority of people with autism (85%) are unemployed, according to Deloitte, compared with less than 5% of the overall population.

So what can employers – and everyone in general – do to integrate neurodiverse employees into society and the workplace?

According to Harvard Medical School, we can all be more neurodiverse-friendly by: 

  • Using a clear communication style.
  • Politely informing people about social and workplace etiquettes.
  • Trying to give advance notice if plans are changing, and providing a reason for the change.
  • Asking a person’s individual preferences, needs, and goals, without making assumptions.
  • Being kind and patient!

In many ways, our Region is leading the way in embracing neurodiversity – Professor Amanda Kirby of Cardiff University is an acknowledged expert in the field, the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Act enshrines respect for neurodivergent communities, and Inclusivity is one of the four strategic goals of Cardiff Capital Region. 

 

So let’s celebrate this week – and be sure to build on it, for everyone’s future. 

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