All businesses can take a hint from Apple and Google: if you want your business to thrive in the 21st century, you better tap into the wonderful talent pool of those whose brains might be a little bit different.
As journalist Brenda Sniderman points out in her October 30, 2014 article in Forbes Magazine “Neurodiversity: A New Talent Opportunity,” “Diversity is crucial to driving business growth and encouraging innovative thinking.”
Ms. Sniderman goes on to say,
“Neurodiversity – the idea that diverse neurological conditions, specifically autism, are simply a natural human variation and neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a normal facet of diversity — is not yet a common idea.”
While this should be common knowledge, sadly it is not. But the time is coming. Reflecting on the messages in the Aspertools book, especially the chapter on harnessing the hyper-interests of individuals, it dawned on me that one of the most potent agents of change would be to simply educate big business that it is in their selfish interest to harness the talents of the neurodiverse to benefit their bottom lines. Suits in corporate boardrooms can follow the money well.
Certainly, Silicon Valley giants such as Apple and Google have recognized this to their advantage, garnering many of the elite brains of the Asperger’s community to work with them. Bill Gates, with Aspie traits himself, did it in reverse with Microsoft. And software giant SAP makes no bones about seeking those with Asperger’s Syndrome to work for them. Auticon in Germany recruits only those on the autism spectrum for their abilities to focus on detail for long periods. (http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/german-company-recruits-employees-with-autism/13453/laurel-joss/)
This all serves as a reminder that In educating America and the world about positive directions in neurodiversity , we should emphasize the pragmatic self interests of society, as well as the need to do the right thing.
This blog was originally published here. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Different Brains® Inc. founder Harold “Hackie” Reitman, M.D. is an author, filmmaker, retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, the past chairman and president (and current board member) of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, and a neurodiversity advocate. However, it was his role as a father that led to the creation of the DifferentBrains.org website.
Hackie’s daughter Rebecca grew up with epilepsy, 23 vascular brains tumors, and underwent 2 brain surgeries before the age of 5. Her struggles and recovery put him on the road to, through 26 professional heavyweight boxing matches, raising money for children’s charities (to which he donated every fight purse).
Rebecca eventually went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Discrete Mathematics, and Dr. Reitman wrote and produced a film based on her experiences there (The Square Root of 2, starring Darby Stanchfield of ABC’s Scandal). After graduation, Rebecca received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Hackie, shocked at his own ignorance of the topic despite being an M.D., embarked on years of research that culminated with his book Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity (released by HCI books, publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series).
This experience revealed to Hackie the interconnectedness of the conditions that fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, while alerting him to the in-fighting and fractured relations that often plague the organizations tasked with serving the community. Convinced that overcoming these schisms could help all of society, Hackie forged the Different Brains philosophy of inclusive advocacy: “Supporting Neurodiversity – From Autism to Alzheimer’s and All Brains In Between”.
In the company’s initial years of operation, Hackie self-financed all of the content on DifferentBrains.org, all of which offered free to view to the public. Currently he is the host of our weekly interview show Exploring Different Brains, writes blogs for the site, and tours the country speaking at conferences, conventions and private functions, all with the goal of improving the lives of neurodiverse individuals and their families, and maximizing the potential of those with different brains. Separate from Different Brains, Hackie is the founder and CEO of PCE Media, a media production company focusing on reality based content. He recently co-executive produced the documentary “Foreman”, the definitive feature documentary on legendary boxer and pitchman George Foreman.