Neurodivergence as the competitive edge

Shamus Hart
Shamus Hart
UX Designer – Avarni
April 29, 2024
min read

Avarni has a rich tradition of tackling difficult problems through a diverse lens. In celebration of Autism Awareness Month, and reflecting our commitment to diversity, we delve into how specialized thinking can enhance digital product development. Shamus Hart, a UX Designer at Avarni who is both ADHD and autistic, offers his perspective on the benefits of this approach.

Businesses get two things very wrong about autism and neurodivergence in the workplace. Many incorrectly believe that the level of accommodation is costly and challenging to implement. Additionally, there is the presumption that neurodivergence is at odds with innovation because of specific needs.

Now, let's dispel these myths

Surprisingly enough, autism is very cheap to accommodate. The caveat is that the support system needs to be in place, and the autistic person needs to be aware of their needs, limitations and requirements (just like any employee). The same work structures that work for autistic employees work for neurotypical employees.

All things that employees require:

  • Calm and safe working environments
  • Explain 'the why' does something the way it does
  • Understanding workplace culture, social practices and business processes

Nothing here costs the business; it's just good management practices. In this sense, accommodation shouldn't be considered accommodation; instead, it should be regarded as effective management.

Neurodivergent thinking fosters innovation

Most businesses talk about innovation but rarely do it well. To foster innovative or convergent thinking patterns, businesses need leadership and diverse thinking methods.

Autistic employees are deep thinkers who are often highly specialised in thinking about a subject area. They are usually considered leaders of a particular discipline. For example, they may excel at detail and pattern recognition. Their mind disposition places them above a neurotypical standard for recognition-based tasks. Thus, they produce a better outcome due to neuro-wiring

In other words, they frequently identify challenges or approach complicated or overlooked business problems. These minds find a workplace home nicely in cyber security, AI, programming, and design. They may also be subject matter experts and know more facts about that area's field discipline. Thus, neurodiverse individuals, like people with autism, thrive at tackling complicated problems and approaching business ideas from a unique perspective.

There are three distinct thought patterns in neurodiverse individuals (specifically autism). These thinking styles allow the individual to address a problem with a highly attuned way of processing information. Businesses should view this specialisation of thought as a distinct competitive edge.

The differences between neurodiverse modes of thinking are as follows:

Visual thinkers think in images and construct systems within their minds to process information. They have a "photographic" memory and remember detailed pictures (not to be confused with an eidetic memory).

Verbal thinkers have an affinity for words, literature, linguistics, and speech. They display a vast capacity for memorising factual information and usually excel at comprehending a discipline.

Pattern thinkers excel in maths and music. They look for patterns and find connections in both meaningful and meaningless information. Pattern thinkers can make problematic associations that many will miss.

The benefits of neurodiverse thinking are manifold. These unique minds are adept at noticing subtleties that a neurotypical might overlook, identifying and correcting fringe defects, and finding elegant solutions to issues that many may ignore. Moreover, they are particularly suited to addressing specific types of problems, making them Invaluable in certain disciplines such as testing.

As the expression goes, the devil is in the details.

Neurotypicals may overlook certain things or lack the deep aptitude that is innate to someone who is autistic or has ADHD. The unique perspectives of neurodiverse individuals who excel at tackling the 'hard' problems and the 'boring' details are an asset to the business. By combining specialist mindsets, your team can achieve a deep understanding that transcends traditional problem-solving approaches.

Divergency in this can be harnessed to yield better business solutions.

Do you want innovation? Add some neurodivergent talent to your team.

The secret sauce to a team is a difference in thought. Often overlooked are the types of minds brought into solving problems or innovating a concept.

Diverse neuro-patterns solve problems in unique ways. They create solutions based on their inherent mental model of thinking or specialised interests. Additionally, these patterns are more apt and weighted for different ways of learning and visualising information.

Distinguishable thought modes become the secret sauce for creating behavioural outcomes that lead to truly innovative ideas. This is mainly the outcome of differences in perspective and behaviours, creating the friction required for innovation.

Thinking of neurodiverse staff as force multipliers drastically change innovation and resource management. Instead, look at the next autistic employee as more apt to solve the complex problems a company or discipline has. Because innovative thinking is not the product of compliant or conventional thinking patterns

So, what’s your business’ secret sauce?

Neurodiversity is our competitive edge.

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