Realising the Potential of Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain can work and interpret information. It highlights that people naturally think about things differently. We have different interests and motivations, and are naturally better at some things and poorer at others.

Most people are neurotypical, meaning that the brain functions and processes information in the way society expects. However it is estimated that around 1 in 7 people (more than 15% of people in the UK) are neurodivergent, meaning that the brain functions, learns and processes information differently. Neurodivergence includes Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia and other conditions.

Most forms of neurodivergence are experienced along a 'spectrum'. Each form of neurodivergence (such as dyslexia and autism) has a range of associated characteristics, but these can vary from individual to individual. For example, the effects of dyspraxia on one person can be different to another person who also has dyspraxia. The effects on the individual can also change over time.

Additionally, an individual will often have the characteristics of more than one type of neurodivergence. It is therefore important that people are not stereotyped according to the better known characteristics. For example, not all autistic people will be good at maths.

While employers may need to offer resource and take steps to minimise any potential difficulties, there are clear benefits and competitive advantages to having employees who think differently. Positive attributes commonly associated with neurodivergent employees include:

  • creativity and innovation

  • lateral thinking

  • strategic analysis

  • bringing a 'different perspective'

  • development of highly specialised skills

  • consistency in tasks once mastered.

Businesses and other organisations are starting to wake up to the benefits of embracing the opportunities of employing people with neurodiverse talents. The mindset that sees neurological differences as a challenge or problem to be overcome is giving way to the idea that failing to engage neurodiverse talents is an opportunity being missed.

The enlightened Enterprise Academy has organised an event to explore the potential of neurodiversity and engage people with conditions. We do so within the context of the broader discussion about the power of diversity. Our most recent articles explored "The Imperative of Diversity — Collective Blindness to Collective Intelligence", based on a review of the book Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed. In other upcoming events we will also explore the importance of unorthodox thinking by leaders in The Maverick Leader, a free online event introducing a program of events on the topic. And in the past we have run event on approaches to thinking and decision making such as Red Team Thinking.

The FREE ONLINE EVENT "REALISING THE POTENTIAL OF NEURODIVERSITY" will feature contributions from: Charlotte Valuer, Robert D. Austin, Jeremy Davey and Shaheim Ogbomo-Harmitt.

Charlotte Valuer is the most recent former Chair of the Institute of Directors, and CEO of the Global Governance Group. She recently "came out" as autistic generating much news coverage. Sky News described her as the highest profile business leader in the UK to take such a step. She is working to raise greater awareness of the opportunities that far too many organisations have yet to wake up to.

Charlotte also has in excess of 35 years experience in the finance industry. She also has current and past experience serving on the boards of a number of listed and unlisted companies including: Chair of FTSE250 Kennedy Wilson Europe Real Estate Plc, Chair of LSE listed Blackstone/GSO loan Financing Ltd, Chair of LSE listed DWCG Ltd, NED of FTSE250 3i Infrastructure Plc, LSE listed JPMorgan Global Convertibles Income Trust Plc, Renewable energy company NTR Plc and Laing O’Rourke Construction.

Robert D Austin is a Professor of Information Systems at Ivey Business School, and an affiliated faculty member at both Harvard Medical School and Aarhus School of Business and Social Science, Denmark. Prior to his current appointments, he was Professor of Management of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Copenhagen Business School, and before that, a professor of Technology and Operations Management at Harvard Business School. He co-authored "Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage", an article for Harvard Business Review. It argued "Many people with neurological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia have extraordinary skills, including in pattern recognition, memory, and mathematics. Yet they often struggle to fit the profiles sought by employers".

Jeremy Davey is currently a Cybersecurity Architect at Microsoft. Previously he worked internationally to drive technology adoption and innovation. Today, in his spare time, he is a Specialist Reserve Officer in the Royal Corps of Signals, flies light aircraft, drives steam trains and is fascinated by the World Land Speed Record, being part of the team that set the current, supersonic record.

Jeremy is neurodiverse and founded the Microsoft Global Neurodiversity Community. It currently has 1100 members, both neurodiverse and allies, and continues to grow exponentially. They support each other and the company around neurodiversity questions and issues, educate their colleagues about Neurodiversity, and advocate for opportunities for those with conditions. He will speak more about their activities and share his insights.

Shaheim Ogbomo-Harmitt. is a doctorate student at King’s College London. He was diagnosed with dyslexia from a young age and struggled with it throughout his education. Now as an adult he wishes to highlight the difficulties of being Dyslexic within an educational system unable to provide the necessary help and support he and others needed.

His achievements, despite the challenges and lack of support, allow him to speak authoritatively and share his insights. His contribution will ensure the event remains practical in focus and grounded in reality.

The event will take place on Monday 5th October at 6pm BST (GMT+1) Registration is essential. Register Now

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