The Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, coined the term Neurodiversity in the late ’90s. Singer described an inherent range in how the human mind functions regarding the functional processing of information, emotions and thoughts (Honeybourne 2020, p. 13).
The term “neurodiversity” refers to the various mental models that persist in a population as a neuro-minority.According to Wiginton (2021), these neurodiverse conditions commonly include ADHD, autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Tourette syndrome.
Neurodiversity defines a natural variation for how all do not think, learn or process information in the same ways. There is diversity in the way human brains function that was not consistently recognised until recently (Honeybourne 2020, p. 13).
Neurodiversity is part of natural deviation and variations in a population.
Heil (2013) described the fundamental claim of Functionalism indicates that sensory inputs are relational to behavioural outcomes. Functionalism emphasises that the behaviours we see are, in fact, the results of the sum of the parts for cognition (Levin, 2018; Polger, 2019).
The mind is effectively an abstraction of cognition; this is due to the interconnectedness and specialisation of the ‘parts’ of the brain. For this reason, behaviours have a biological explanation, and the intensity of behaviour is due to how an individual can process these sensory inputs. Thus, experience and behaviour are subjective.
Evolutionary psychology explains that trait success is the direct result of a natural process (Polger, 2019). As such, successful behavioural traits have a physiological and biological explanation and are a part of the success of our evolutionary history (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997). Accordingly, as Cosmides and Tooby (1997) explained, we are evolved problem-solvers and our behaviours, traits, and neurology result from the evolutionary process.
Each module of the human brain worked to solve survival issues that our ancestors faced. Consequently, these neuro-structures gave us an advantage over competitors from an evolutionary perspective. These are the complex sum of the parts creating an answer to an evolutionary challenge.
The specialised mind vs. the generalised mind
For us, this implies natural variations in how people think and demonstrate different levels of specialisation in thought. Neurodiversity offers distinct advantages to an organisation due to finding specialised traits based on mind advantages.
Specialisation specifically in digital provides a highly competitive advantage to a business. These advantages are the social currency for a brand when supporting the at-risk and increasing output due to leveraging ‘specialised’ thinking styles.
Neurodiversity in work
Modern thinking is shifting due to the financial and societal benefits of hiring neurodiverse people. The crucial business advantage is due to specialised areas neurotypicals struggle in, but Neurodiverse employees excel in.
For example, Microsoft and SAP both operate testing teams for Autistic-only individuals. As described by Auticon, the success rate for Autistic tester finding faults in code by far exceeds any other neurotypical group (Quality Assurance & Testing n.d.).
Since the Autistic brain excels at pattern recognition, this makes for highly effective in finding fault in systems that a neurotypical would often overlook. As a result, there is a positive financial benefit attached to reducing bugs in the code. However, there are obvious social benefits to employing neurodiverse workers.
HBR describes employing the neurodiverse as something that resonates and has a currency with customers (Austin & Pisano 2017). Customers are far more likely to support ethical brands that actively promote a cause; these actions improve brand perception and customer loyalty or retention (Russell 2018).
For this reason, supporting and promoting neurodiversity allows a business to access talent and appeal to our customers. And a business that supports these types of strategies sees a boost in brand affinity and access to a talent pool of specialised workers.
What is good for the neurodiverse is good for the neurotypical. It’s just a way of doing good business.
Accessing a specialised set of skill-based on neuro-wiring. Like an elite athlete, neurodiverse individuals have some skills above the neurotypical average for pattern recognition, talent for numbers, or memory (Honeybourne 2020). Furthermore, neurodivergents are the cheapest conditions to cater for because these are small inclusion changes.
Measures for inclusion include:
- Changing the lighting to LED (this is additionally good for reducing power consumption).
- Giving visual tasks (as in Kanban boards).
- Providing mentoring or a buddy system.
- Understanding sensory limitations. This might be providing access to noise-cancelling headphones for reducing sound sensitivity in an office environment.
- Flexible working relationships (in other words, Agile working methodologies).
- Austin, R & Pisano, G 2017, Neurodiversity Is a Competitive Advantage, Harvard Business Review, viewed 18 April 2021, <https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage>.
- Heil, J 2013, Philosophy of mind: a contemporary introduction, Routledge, London.
- Honeybourne, V 2020, The neurodiverse workplace: an employer’s guide to managing and working with neurodivergent employees, clients and customers, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London; Philadelphia.
- Quality Assurance & Testing n.d., auticon, viewed 3 April 2021, <https://auticon.com.au/projects-services/quality-assurance-testing/>.
- Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L 1997, Evolutionary psychology: A primer. pp. 1–14.
- Wiginton, K 2021, Neurodiversity: What Is It?, WebMD, viewed 24 November 2022, <https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/features/what-is-neurodiversity>.