Neurodiversity in the workplace: A personal experience of Dyslexia and Dyspraixa
Two years ago I was struggling with my PhD at Cambridge University. It was clear I was not getting the requirements of the course. My supervisor suggested that I get tested for Dyslexia as she had noticed a pattern. The assessment was interesting as you have no idea what they are looking for. Towards the end of the assessment I was diagnosed with both Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. This came rather late in the day having completed an MBA and MEd but at this point it was clear that all of my coping strategies had failed to withstand the rigors of the PhD. What struck me since my diagnosis is how reserved other people are to discuss neurodiversity for fear of being labelled or held back because of a perceived stigma and lack of understanding.
Fortunately for me my employer at the time was incredibly supportive both at a senior management level and my team of direct reports. But no one actually asked me how my diagnosis effected my performance in the work place. This is part of the problem in going from the generic labels to individual behaviours. Maximising performance is more than knowing strengths and weaknesses of a neuro-condition. The opportunity for both potential employers and managers is to recognize whether they have a diversity of thinkers in the workforce and if they do how best they maximise the opportunities to utilize different thinking and perspectives.
A neurodiverse workforce enables companies and organisations to look at the diversity of thinking at a strategic level. All too often senior management tend to conform to a particular type of thinking. Hence, over-specialization, groupthink and at worst conformity. However, by actively thinking about neurodiversity it enables different conversations and perspectives to be brought to bear on strategic problems. This creates new options to be explored, ways of presenting information and ultimately innovation. The challenge in promoting neurodiversity for organisations is not as a disability but rather as as an added value.