This Is How To Be More Aware Of The Superior Value Of Neurodiversity In The Workplace

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Expert Insights From Neuroscience:

A diverse workplace is one that honors all that we bring to it as people. Click To Tweet It sees difference as a source of strength and heterogeneity as a value rather than a challenge to be overcome, and is amongst the most progressive recruitment strategies.

Neuroscience provides insights into the value of recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of different cognitive functions. Neurodiversity emphasizes valuing the diversity of different brain types and the special gifts they can bring. Click To Tweet This is especially valuable when determining how to attract top talent. Here are some strategies for being inclusive of diversity in personality type, cognitive preferences, and brain make-up in the employee hiring process, based on recent insights from neuroscience and neurodiversity.

The Value Of Diverse & Inclusive Workplaces

A place that is cognizant of the fact that not everyone is the same, takes advantage of this and the opportunities it provides. Whether it be personality type, cultural, or other differences, a diverse workplace is a stronger one because people feel valued, and differences are harnessed rather than suppressed. Click To Tweet It is an environment where we can bring our whole selves to work, knowing that personal growth is an outcome of diverse personalities coming together with complementary strengths, learning from each other. Not only is this one of the best ways to recruit employees, as it’s evident to applicants and can positively affect the candidate experience, but it also provides staff solutions for successful talent recruitment, increases employee engagement, and improves both company culture, and the bottom line.

Self-leadership can be enhanced by understanding our strengths and embracing different cognitive preferences other than our natural ones. Workplace culture can be strengthened by taking a positive approach to diversity. Rather than seeing people who are different to us in personality or ability as a challenge, a viewpoint that values diversity sees difference as an advantage to be leveraged. Our emotional intelligence is sharpened, as our employee engagement soars.

Ways Diversity Can Work For Us & Professional Recruiters

Some of the ways diversity based on personality and cognitive preference can work for us include:

  1. Talent Recruitment: An inclusive approach to recruitment that takes into account personality preferences such as introversion and extroversion means that we are achieving a career match, not just hiring people who can perform well in any given interview process.
  2. Teamwork: The ability to draw on a diverse range of perspectives in teams can yield positive results. Heterogeneous teams have been found to be strongly linked with innovative outcomes. Successful partnerships in business reflect the strengths of introverts and extroverts working together to create workplace wellbeing. Susan Cain explains this in the case of Apple, and the partnership between Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs via The Power of Quiet in Collaboration. The Yin and Yang of personality preferences helps complement personal gaps with the strength of others.
  3. Understanding of others: Workplaces that encourage an understanding of differences through working on Jung/Myers-Briggs personality type via the MBTI® (or similar tools) can create an environment of heightened respect for others. This increases opportunities to learn from each other’s preferences. Team performance is improved, and conflict is reduced through better understanding of the different ways people think and work. Click To Tweet Hiring people, and keeping them, is easier when they want to work with your company.
  4. Stretching our own skills: A diverse workplace means we can learn from each other. Introverts might strengthen their public speaking skills from watching extroverts in action, then adapt this to complement their own preferences, and vice versa. Those who value thinking over feeling can benefit from engaging with others for whom personal values, empathy, and sensitivities might be key drivers. Conversely, those who naturally prefer feeling over thinking might learn from others about the value of structures, frameworks, and logical analysis. Working together, a well-rounded approach can benefit all. Our emotional intelligence is honed through every day interaction enabled by acceptance, creating an environment that beckons top talent.
  5. Bringing our own strengths to bear: Being a part of diverse teams helps us better realize our own strengths as others reflect them back to us. We find ourselves seeing how we can naturally contribute to the dynamics of a team through our strengths. Finding ways to leverage them in practice, we work out how our natural ways of operating can both help others and the teams of which we are a part. Ultimately, a company culture where people are excited to show up to work is born.

What Neuroscience Teaches Us About Diversity

The role of neuroscience in better understanding our cognitive preferences provides insights into how diverse approaches and teams can result in more well-rounded and flexible approaches to personal and workplace ways of working.

I had the opportunity to attend a series of workshops with Dr. Dario Nardi, respected neuroscientist and UCLA professor, when he attended the Australian Association for Psychological Type conference in Sydney in 2017.

Nardi explores the work of Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs personality types from the perspective of neuroscience. His work employs EEG brain-imaging technology to see how the brain works and shifts as it carries out particular activities such as talking about a favourite topic, performing a challenging task, or wondering aloud about more philosophical perspectives of life.

From 10 years of research, Nardi has created a body of evidence that demonstrates strong neurological validity in the brain for the sixteen Jung/Myers-Briggs personality types and their aligned, lead-cognitive processes.

Learnings From Neuroscience

Dario Nardi’s research and the practical activities engaged in via his workshop show that:

  • Knowing our own lead process and strengths is a form of self-knowledge.
  • We can practice self-leadership by knowing our own preferences, developing our weaker preferences, and appreciating the way others work, which might be different to our own.
  • Valuing diversity of cognitive approaches both in how we work, as well as how we might work with others, is a source of strength and growth.
  • Putting ourselves into the shoes of others who work differently is a way of stretching our own ways of working, and increasing our personal, cognitive skill range.

Inclusive Approaches To Self-Leadership

Leadership is about leading yourself first. The work of Dario Nardi focuses on how we can practice self-leadership from a cognitive-processing perspective. As Nardi explains in his book, Neuroscience of Personality, research indicates that: “Each personality type shows patterns of brain activity that strongly influences their experience.”

Once we know our personality type and lead preferences (such as introverted Intuiting, extroverted Thinking, introverted Sensing or extroverted Feeling), we have a guide as to our natural strengths, and preferred ways of processing. We can then begin to explore our less-preferred strengths as a source of personal development, and also learn to value the ways others work more deeply. This inevitably leads to a more harmonious workplace environment, enriches employee experience, strengthens company culture and workplace wellbeing, and positively impacts the entire hiring process, from talent acquisition to employee retention.

As Nardi explains in his book, 8 Keys to Self-Leadership, “Our lead process remains the captain of our ship, no matter how much developing we do. We use it in the background even when using other processes. Lead and supporting processes develop first, and each experience we have of non-preferred processes is cause for celebration and a doorway to change.”

Susan Storm provides a valuable introduction to the cognitive functions of Myers-Briggs Theory. It is especially useful if you know your personality type.

An Example Based On The INTJ Personality Type

As an INTJ Jung/Myers-Briggs personality type, my preferred cognitive process is introverted Intuiting (Ni). As outlined in the article Eight Functions of Type based on the work of Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler, this preference typically:

  • “Sees connections and possibilities in the internal world
  • Views situations from multiple perspectives until the “best” is perceived
  • Recognizes and values symbols

It’s so easy to assume that everyone operates the way we do, given our preferred cognitive processes are so strongly ingrained. But learning how to use and recognize cognitive processes other than our most natural ones is a way to become more well-rounded and develop our skills. It enables us to identify opportunities to value difference, and seek out opportunities to learn from others, and apply it to talent management, professional development, and every day life.

As Nardi says in ‘Neuroscience of Personality’: “Every person comes into this world with capabilities and potential, and together, we can prosper by our different gifts.” Click To Tweet

Working With Others To Help Us Grow Our Potential & Improve Workplace Culture

Being aware of the influence of our personality type on our view of the world is so valuable. Click To Tweet And working on this in the context of the work environment, and with others who have different preferences, it’s a great way to grow employee satisfaction in workplace wellbeing.

How you contribute to your organization or workplace is as unique to you, as is the contribution of colleagues. Click To Tweet Nardi explains in ‘8 Keys to Self-Leadership: “All eight cognitive processes contribute to the essential activities of the organization. With each situation, project, or team, practice looking for how each process might be drawn upon to improve performance and satisfaction.”

You can also look at your “team’s brain” to see the natural cognitive terrain it covers and whether it is diverse or not. In his article, What’s Your Team’s Brain?, Nardi outlines some key brain basics for teams in the workplace, and elsewhere. Knowledge of neuroscience and brain imaging, or working via personality type assessment, can help to identify the “team brain”.

These practices can help identify the strengths and weaknesses in a team, and any potential gaps or blind spots. It’s also a way of taking into account the polarities within a team, and restructuring accordingly for a more cohesive, and accepting unit. For example, such as the team members’ differing needs for regular breaks and exercise. This knowledge of the cognitive make-up of a team can be a “brain-savvy” way of leveraging this diversity for positive outcomes. As freedom and creativity levels increase, so do those of employee approval. It’s how to attract and retain top talent for a more mutually-beneficial, aligned, career match. Employer branding becomes easier, and a positively-reinforced cycle has begun. An organizational system has been improved.

Practical Ways To Harness The Potential Of Different Ways Of Working

Examples of how you might work within your organization or team to both grow your own potential, and harness the strength of diversity in the workplace include:

  1. Focus on the best use of your personality strength, and bring this strength to the table in the context of a team to drive performance.
  2. Identify where you need the help of others in your team or organization to maximize outcomes or improve your skill; for example, when the focus of an activity is a least-prefered function.
  3. Identify any gaps in any specific team you are working in, and see how you can balance this with additional outside expertise, or by actively focusing on the preference not represented.
  4. Value the strengths of personality type within a team by overtly identifying task leaders in line with their preferred ways of working, and learn from them.
  5. Identify and notice cooperative relationships between preferences and processes. See where working with a lead process/person and a support process/person can yield benefits through the strength of these complementary connections.

Neurodiversity & What It Teaches Us

‘Neurodiversity’ emphasizes the overt valuing of diversity based on how the brain works. In What Neurodiversity Is And Why Companies Should Embrace It, Jenara Nerenberg makes the case for brain make-up as a key way of viewing and valuing people and their unique and diverse contributions:

“What if traits like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and others weren’t thought of as “disorders”, but as brain make-ups that are not only natural, but also contain unique gifts and contributions?” she asks. Click To Tweet

She also claims that neurodiversity as a concept is overlooked, and that many aspects of the workplace, from the interview process to the nature of your workplace environments, are set up for those who are “neurotypical.”

Nerenberg provides valuable tips in her article for re-framing the workplace for neurodivergence. She recommends reconceptualizing our traditional views on conditions such as autism in the workplace by realizing that diverse neurological skills can be seen as valuable, rather than being seen as a form of disability and something to be overcome.

Challenging Stereotypes About Personality & Brain Make-Up

An underlying issue is the overwhelming tendency to conformity, and feeling like we need to be like everyone else. Some workplaces are overtly identifying the need to embrace neurodiversity as a source of strength, and the organization thrives. The employee experience is one desired by top talent, and hiring good employees for a solid career match becomes easier with a wider talent pool.

In May 2017, Yahoo announced its Employee Resource Group (ERG), focused on Neurodiversity.  This group is headed up by Margaux Joffe, Yahoo’s Head of Production, Global Marketing Department, whose passion for neurodiversity stems from her personal experience in being diagnosed with ADHD. The aim of the group is “to champion neurodiversity at Yahoo in order to create an inclusive workplace for minds of all kinds.”

Margaux Joffe, cited in Nernberg’s article, makes the case for diversity as a source of creativity and strength, saying: “Many times, the only thing holding us back is thinking we need to work like others. Build on your strengths and be fearless. This goes for everyone.”

Valuing Neurodiversity In Our Workplace

There are many ways we can value and make the most of neurodiversity in the workplace. Here are just a few examples:

  • Physical spaces: creating workplaces that enable people of all brain types to work well, including options for quiet space and teamwork.
  • Professional Recruitment: ensuring recruitment strategies promote inclusion in the workplace and hiring process with regard to personality and brain make-up. Incorporating a mix of talent acquisition solutions that reflect diverse preferences can assist with company talent management goals.
  • Rethinking “right fit” and ’finding the right person for the job’ and identifying where the skills of people with neurodiverse preferences may be the best match for a job role.
  • Building positive mental health practices to achieve workplace wellness goals through discussing and addressing issues such as sleep, stress, and burnout.
  • Open-minded thinking: Practicing a mindset that values diversity about cognitive functions. This helps to ensure that limiting perceptions do not become a driving factor in how people are treated.
  • Practicing a team approach that values diversity: see how true teamwork, informed by an understanding of cognitive preferences and the values of diversity, can enhance personal and team skills as a source of growth.

Benefits Of A Neurodiverse Workplace

As Larry Wall, creator of the Perl open software program, quoted in Steve Silberman’s history of autism, Neurotribes says: “There is more than one way to do it.”

Insights from neuroscience and diversity show us there are many ways to approach tasks, teamwork, workplace projects, and talent acquisition solutions. Learning about our own preferred ways of working is a way to strengthen our self-knowledge. Balancing this with an understanding of respect of how others work is a path to personal growth and positive outcomes.

By realizing the power of differences in approaches, we become open to learning. Click To TweetThis enables a workplace culture that values difference. We honor the contribution of individuals of diverse cognitive preferences and brain types. Each employee that is empowered to make the best of their contribution and unique gifts will feel supported and valued. This, in turn, will result in a company culture focused on people’s strengths, creative solutions and innovative outcomes. And isn’t that the sort of professional environment where we all want to work? 

Have you had any experiences in the talent acquisition or job search capacities with a company that got it right? How about one that got it completely wrong? Share what you liked, didn’t like, and what you would like to see done in the future in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you, and be sure to connect with us on Social Media!

2 thoughts on “This Is How To Be More Aware Of The Superior Value Of Neurodiversity In The Workplace

  1. Pingback: How to be more aware of the value of cognitive diversity in the workplace: insights from neuroscience and neurodiversity - Quiet Writing

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