In our ever-evolving world, workplaces are becoming more aware of the significance of diversity and inclusion. One crucial aspect that often takes the spotlight is neurodiversity.
Many years ago when I was running my own performing arts school in Wellington, I became acutely aware of learning styles, the process of learning, and the way that children and their parents often communicated differently. My goal was always to be ‘present’ with whoever was in front of me and to meet that person where they were, as a way of honouring their uniqueness, creating an authentic and meaningful connection. I had many students who now identify as ‘Neurodivergent’, and during their learning journey, I saw both the challenges and the incredible gifts that different brains brought to the school. I learned to modify my teaching and communication styles to suit their needs and because of this was able to produce some extraordinary student performances, with parents often commenting ‘How did you get my child to do that?’ It was a magical experience and a profound learning journey for me too.
Now, as a fervent advocate for authenticity and communication in Te Ao Pākihi – the business world – I believe in the power of celebrating neurodiversity in the workplace because I’ve experienced it myself. This approach not only enhances the authentic presence of individuals within a team, but also fosters better communication, connection, and ultimately, heightened productivity.
Neurodiversity is a concept that acknowledges and respects the natural variations in the human brain. It encompasses individuals with diverse neurological conditions, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and more. I believe that instead of viewing these differences as deficits, neurodiversity recognises them as natural variations that contribute to the richness of human cognition and to society as a whole.
The Importance of Acknowledging Neurodiversity for Authentic Presence
Embracing neurodiversity is essential for cultivating an authentic presence in the workplace. When individuals feel accepted and celebrated for their unique neurocognitive traits, they are more likely to bring their true selves to work. This authenticity paves the way for genuine connections, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and understood.
Enhancing Communication and Connection
In my experience, Neurodivergent individuals often bring distinct perspectives and problem-solving approaches to the table. By celebrating these differences, workplaces can create a beautiful melting pot of ideas, leading to more innovative solutions. Moreover, embracing neurodiversity promotes empathy and understanding among team members, enhancing overall communication and connection.
Research indicates that diverse teams are more productive and innovative. By embracing neurodiversity, organisations have the opportunity to tap into a broader range of skills and talents. Neurodivergent individuals often possess unique strengths, such as enhanced pattern recognition, creativity, and attention to detail, which can contribute significantly to the success of a team or project.
The Term Neurofabulous
In some of my recent keynotes, I’ve shared with audiences that I personally identify as ‘Neurofabulous’ and that “The weird and wonderful in me acknowledges the weird and wonderful in you – or however you identify.” The result has been a collective feeling of calm as audiences realised that as a speaker, I’m not there to speak from ‘mask to mask’ – a concept often used by those in the Neurodivergent world to explain how they operate in a Neurotypical world – but from ‘brain to brain’. I believe it’s the brain and the heart that are the creators of an authentic self-concept, something which has been at the core of my work for more than 25 years.
I champion the term “Neurofabulous” with pride, as a way to celebrate the fabulous diversity of all brains. For me, it emphasises that every individual’s brain is unique and brings something extraordinary to the collective intelligence of a workplace. I believe this term fosters a positive and empowering mindset, encouraging individuals to take pride in their neurocognitive differences and abilities.
Encouraging Neurodiversity in the Workplace:
So how can we encourage our people to identify and celebrate their uniqueness, creating space for them to show up as their best and brightest authentic selves, sharing their incredible abilities within the workplace?
Education and Awareness: Consider implementing training programs to educate employees about neurodiversity, reducing stigma, and fostering understanding.
Inclusive Policies: Develop inclusive policies that accommodate different working styles and provide necessary support for neurodivergent individuals.
Open Dialogue: Encourage open conversations about Neurodiversity, creating a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and perspectives.
Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexibility in work arrangements, recognising that different individuals may thrive in diverse environments.
Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs to connect Neurodivergent individuals with experienced colleagues, providing guidance and support.
And if you’re not sure where to start, get in touch! As a Neurofabulous individual, this is a discussion very dear to my heart and my keynote on this topic not only identifies the challenges of ‘showing up’ authentically but also provides an actionable framework that can be easily implemented by any individual ready to step into their greatest evolution of themselves, feeling safe and unapologetically, brilliantly themselves. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.
Celebrating Neurodiversity in the workplace is not just an ethical imperative but also a strategic move for creating a vibrant, innovative, and inclusive organisational culture. As we embrace the term ‘Neurofabulous’, I hope to create a movement that acknowledges the brilliance that each unique brain brings, fostering an environment where authenticity reigns, and every individual can thrive.
“Ko tō tātou rerekētanga, ko tō tātou kaha.”
“Our differences are our strength.”
Grandin, T. (2013). The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum.
Heasman, B., & Gillespie, A. (2017). Neurodivergent Communication at Work: Redefining the Norms of ‘Professional’ Communication. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 934.
Silberman, S. (2015). NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.
Smith, M. J., & Bargiela, S. (2019). Workplace Stress and ASD: A Preliminary Investigation of the Employee Experience in the UK. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 32(3), 704–713.