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Neurodiversity at work benefits everyone

Professor Carol Adams explains why neurodiversity at work benefits everyone and why companies are hiring autistic people: 

Some of my favourite fictional characters include Spock and Seven of Nine from Star Trek, Dr Martin Ellingham from Doc Martin and Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor. Apart from being brilliant at their jobs, they are all considered to be autistic by the autism community. 

It is no coincidence that what makes these characters so good at their jobs are characteristics associated with autistic or non-neurotypical people. Leaving aside The Good Doctor’s and Seven’s savant abilities, they are all logical thinkers, curious, evidence-based decision makers, tenacious, persistent at solving problems and focused. They offer different perspectives and don’t succumb to the sort of groupthink or non-evidence based decision making that lands many companies in trouble. 

Their tendency to be direct and honest in social interactions can sometimes get these characters into hot water. But it also stops them getting bogged down in office politics. And it’s for all these reasons that, in the real world, a growing number of companies are seeing the value of hiring autistic people. 

Technology companies such as Microsoft and Dell have autism hiring programmes. The hiring process tends to focus on the technical abilities of candidate and includes observing team-building exercises. 

Other organisations are going further, aiming to change perceptions and highlight the benefits that hiring people with different ways of thinking can bring. German software company SAP launched an initiative in 2013 to recruit more people on the autism spectrum and showcase the benefits they bring to the company. Their chief executive, Christian Klein, says: 

“SAP teams who have colleagues with autism report a rise in patent applications, innovations in products, and an increase in management skills and empathy.” 

This is due to the curiosity of autistic people, an ability to memorise large amounts of information, see patterns as well as detail and a determination to get the job done. New ways of seeing problems have led to innovations for the company. These successes have thrilled managers and encouraged them to look beyond the neurotypical skill set. 

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