Managing high intellectual neurodiverse persons
Updated: Mar 31
Today you can read a lot about neurodiversity but this definition remains still confusing for many people. Usually only managers who had teams over 100 employees have learned how to best work with those complex profiles. In a typical career, if you are one of them, only a few senior executives will offer you room to express creative and untypical system thinking.
In large organisation, you are surrounded by exceptional employees with amazing, credentials, top universities and fast careers. In the collective thinking, they are considered as the advanced minds and superior intelligence and this is true and often they are the majority of the management level workforce. Oppositely, you'll find a few untypical high potential persons, not particularly more intelligent, but differently intelligent. They can notice connections that no one sees and solve problem in an astute way, where clever minds would struggle. They think different options in parallel and compare all on the go, therefore, often they find solution without being able to explain what was the sequence that allowed them to get to the results.. this keeps rational people skeptical... but most of the time results speak for themselves. In addition, they can rely on their sensitivity and emotions to read people and situations, mainly linked to their perception from sensory observation skills. This pure gift allows empathy and anticipation... usually giving those high potential persons the time to think about scenarios and options before anything occurs.
I took part recently in a two weeks intrapreneurship workshop organized by a top-tier strategic consultancy player and noticed that I was surrounded by consultants, mainly neurodiverse untypical profiles with two characteristics:
- They were using their intellectual difference to full potential
- They were able to adjust to the current corporate logic and mindset
Then I understood that one of the unique advantage of top strategic consulting is to manage the neurodiversity and give tools to high potential person to express their full potential while being adjusting well in the workplace. When it come to neurodiversity it is an invisible difference. Some can see this as positive and an unfair advantage but it is often the opposite if not managed.
Neurodiversity and giftedness are well studied in the scientific community. They combine 3 characteristics:
high cognitive abilities, above the average and with particularity to learn fast.
high energy, passion and engagement for common purpose and teamwork
imagination and curiosity with high sense of observation.
Opposite to those strategic consulting firms, most of large companies are struggling at working with neurodiverse profiles. One of the reason is about emotions at work that are more present for sensitive high potential. There is pressure to fit into the system and in such competitive environment for career, emotions can be seen as weaknesses easily used against you. Again, your brain process the information differently and it takes a lot of effort and energy to contain, appear normal and realign everything. If you are an artist, it would make other people more comfortable, you could work for a design or advertising agency. But when it comes to industry and large corporation, like a chameleon you are faking and compensating. Often, untypical people work abroad were their difference hides behind the multi-culture. They sometime start their own business where they can shape activities to their profile and not the opposite.
Interestingly, in strategic consulting role, those profile usually excel at seconding and advising an experienced leader who values unique talents and allows them to behave as self, putting energy in forward thinking making them excellent candidates for strategic consulting firms and large companies should definitively learn from them:
At a time where so many large corporations are competing for innovation and need to master problem solving in complex moving environment... attracting and managing those talents is one of the most important challenge for large companies.
Described by Renzulli framework and detailing the three characteristics:
1 - Above General ability
High levels of abstract thinking, verbal and numerical reasoning, memory, and word fluency. Adaptation to the shaping of novel situations encountered in the external environment. The capacity for acquiring and making appropriate use of advanced amounts of formal knowledge, technique, and strategy in the pursuit of’ particular problems solving.
2 - Task Commitment
The capacity for high levels of interest, enthusiasm, fascination, and involvement in a particular problem. area of study. The capacity for perseverance. endurance. determination, hard work, and dedicated practice. Self-awareness and a belief in one’s ability to carry out important work. The ability to identify significant problems within specialized reason; maintaining an openness to self and external criticism; developing an aesthetic sense of taste, quality, and excellence about the work of others.
3 - Creativity
Fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought. Openness to experience; receptive to that which is new and different (even irrational) in thoughts, actions, and products of oneself and others. Curious, speculative, adventurous, and “mentally playful” willing to take risks in thought and action. Sensitive to detail, aesthetic characteristics of ideas and things; willing to act on and react to external stimulation and one’s own feelings.