While not nearly enough research has been done on ADHD’s benefits, we have compiled a list of attributes that seems to apply to many employees with ADHD. This list has been gathered over our years of working with the ADHD community, but there is limited research that might explain why people with ADHD may exhibit these qualities.
It’s important to note that just as every employee may not be impacted by the same ADHD symptoms, each individual with ADHD has unique skills and advantages. Within the ADHD community, these advantages are often times referred to as “ADHD Superpowers”.
Creativity. People with ADHD can be some of the most creative resources on a team, bringing energy and new approaches to their projects. Several studies have shown that adults with ADHD tend to be out-of-the-box thinkers. A study done at the University of Memphis (White & Shah, 2011) confirmed what many experts have told us, and many ADHD books claim: People with ADHD tend to be more creative than their Non-ADHD peers. In the study, 30 ADHD students scored higher than their peers on 11 different tests for creativity. (Read more about the White & Shah study.) This tendency for creativity was further confirmed through a series of three experiments and approximately 1,000 participants attending a Dutch university (Boot, Nevicka, and Baas, 2017).
Hyper-focus, quality, and timeliness. When focused on work that aligns with their interests and strengths, individuals with ADHD frequently draw upon their strength of hyper-focus and deliver results that easily offset any (often minimal) costs associated with accommodations. Organizations can create a competitive advantage by capitalizing on the diversity ADHD minds bring to their teams.
Good in crises. A recent study also found that the ADHD brain tends to produce more Theta waves than average brains. Theta waves indicate a state of deep relaxation, and ADHD employees’ over-abundance of theta waves can make them great in a crisis. We often see higher rates of ADHD among E.R. doctors and nurses, police officers, fire and rescue personnel, journalists, stock traders, professional athletes, and entertainers. When others are in crisis, those with ADHD can be cool, calm and under control.
Intuitive and detailed-oriented. ADHDers seem to notice things others miss, sometimes to the point of seeming extraordinarily intuitive or (dare we say!) psychic! The average brain manages to sort and filter all incoming sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and touch sensations to a manageable 40 bits of information per second. The ADHD brain is overloaded with sensory input and faces issues with Executive Functions – sorting, filtering, discarding, prioritizing, following through, tracking progress, following procedures. Since the ADHD brain lets in a lot of what some employees might consider irrelevant noise, sometimes, ADHDers are able to notice things that others naturally filter out.
Quick starters. While impulsivity is an ADHD symptom, that often means that people with ADHD are quick starters. They jump right in without worrying or doing endless research. If your team is resistant to risk, resistant to change, hung up on process and procedure, you know it can take forever to get anything done. People resist change and will stick with systems even if they don’t work, or get stuck in analysis paralysis. Although sometimes, employees with ADHD struggle to get started, but often, once they do get going on something that they’re passionate about, they are able to hyper-focus!
The list goes on. Our list is by no means extensive and you’ll likely find yourself adding to the list as you get to know your ADHD employee.
- Ability to find unique solutions to difficult problems
- Adventurous, courageous, thinks “outside the box”
- Being able to derive patterns where others see chaos
- Able to talk about many different topics at one time
- Constant evolution, continual learning
- Good in a crisis – Some of the most stressful jobs are staffed by those with ADHD
- Seemingly endless desire to try new ideas, tasks and projects
- Empathetic and intuitive
- Entrepreneurial. See Succeeding with a Lack of Structure: Tips for Working on Your Own for advice from a successful entrepreneur with ADHD.
- Continual source of new ideas, methods and strategies
- Ability to see many if not all sides of a situation
Boot, Nathalie, Nevicka, Barbara, and Baas, Matthijs. “Subclinical symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are associated with specific creative processes.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 114, no. 1, pp. 73-81.
White, Holly and Shah, Priti. “Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 5, no. 11, 2011, pp. 673-677.