Benefits of neurodiversity for our society Employers are discovering that neurodiverse people have unique abilities to detect patterns and trends. They make operating processes smoother and better in the workplace and are more efficient in some tasks. Although the programs are still in their infancy, the one for SAP, the oldest among the major companies, is only four years old, managers say that they are already paying off in ways that go far beyond improving reputation. These forms include increasing productivity, improving quality, increasing innovative capabilities, and increasing employee engagement across the board.
Nick Wilson, CEO of HPE South Pacific, an organization that has one of the most important programs of its kind, says that no other initiative in his company offers benefits at so many levels. In fact, atypical thinking is highly valued in many contexts, because most types of neurodivergence bring strengths and weaknesses, and all bring unusual perspectives. It's generally understood that scientists and artists of all kinds are often quite rare, for example, and their unusual approach and opinions are often seen as a worthwhile compensation for a lack of conformity. If they're lucky, they might find that the advantages of their divergent thinking outweigh the disadvantages.
Microsoft is also working with universities to improve methods of identifying and accessing neurodiverse talent. Encouraging neurodiversity in the workplace would be like treating those different ways of thinking the same way in the workplace. Preliminary results suggest that the organization's neurodiverse testing teams are 30% more productive than others. For those looking to make concerted efforts to make their work environment an easier place for their neurodiverse colleagues, Cohen suggests simply taking the plunge.
Advocates of neurodiversity believe that society must work to eliminate stigma, create adaptations and fully accept people with autism as capable of contributing to society. This is in addition to the obvious benefits for us as human beings and as members of a society that supports all its individuals. Despite the social difficulties experienced by many neurodiverse people, candidates often display complex collaborative and supportive behaviors during the project-based evaluation period. In any case, neurodiverse employees must meet more requirements than others, because they must meet the objectives of the program, in addition to the performance objectives that are expected of anyone in their position.
Building on the successes of DHS, the Australian Department of Defense is now working with HPE to develop a cybersecurity neurodiversity program; participants will apply their superior pattern detection capabilities to tasks such as examining records and other confusing data sources for signs of intrusion or attack. But in fact, I want to state that the role of luck in this should and can be greatly minimized if we better understand neurodiversity and are more inclusive in our workplaces. In response, HPE helps universities and high schools establish non-traditional “work experience” programs for neurodiverse populations. While there are challenges, some organizations are taking formal steps to establish programs that improve neurodiversity and ensure that workers with different needs and capacities are being cared for.
Perhaps the most surprising benefit is that managers have begun to think more deeply about harnessing the talents of all employees through greater sensitivity to individual needs. According to different studies, between 15 and 20% of the population is neurodiverse, including up to 10% of people diagnosed with dyslexia, 5% who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and between 1 and 2% with autism.