Why Neuro-diversity in the workplace is important.

Why the British Intelligence Agency hires neurodiverse individuals and why you should too.

GCHQ – which is the British spy agency - has over 120 neuro-diverse employees. These employees were chosen specifically for their neuro-diversity. (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11111584/GCHQ-employs-more-than-100-dyslexic-and-dyspraxic-spies.html)

They hire these individuals because, even though they may not have a full range of skills, they are spikey – which means, while they are below average on some common tasks like reading and writing and perhaps tying their shoes, they are well above average in other areas, like problem solving.

Working with neuro-diverse individuals is a challenge. My son has dyspraxia and he’s highly gifted, which means he sees and experiences the world in a profoundly different way than his neurotypical peers.

Getting him to work on things he isn’t interest in is a challenge. Helping him to stay organized is a challenge. I’m his mom, so I worry about what sort of work he might be able to get given his challenges.

And yet, he’s endlessly fascinating and has skills the rest of us don’t. Like his sense of smell is really acute. He may have a photographic memory.  Can he write – barely? Can he remember the song lyrics of a choir piece he heard once? Yes.

Hiring and working with neuro-diverse individuals is a challenge, but it’s precisely what makes these people different that make them so valuable.  So the next time you interview someone “challenging” instead of thinking about how difficult they will be to work with, think about how much value their unique insight into the problems your company faces. You may just find they are worth the effort.

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