If ADHDers are known for one trait above all else, it’s their natural creativity. Before exploring how this creativity can be an advantage in the workplace, I’d like to first distinguish between two types of creative thinking.
1. Divergent thinking
2. Convergent thinking
While both types of creative thinking are used interchangeably, among all cross-sections of the population, those with ADHD are more commonly associated with ‘divergent thinking’. This is the more free-flowing, ‘in the moment’ type of thinking which often surprises us with the unexpected. It’s the divergent thinker who is likely to conjure up ideas that go against all perceived logic, yet will often take the form of an ingenious solution.
The prevalence of divergent thinking in adults with ADHD is supported by various studies, here, here and here. Another study from earlier this year, conducted on a group of undergraduate engineering students, found that ADHD characteristics corelated positively with high levels of divergent thinking ability.
So how can this creativity be put to use in the workplace?
From my experience, it’s divergent thinkers who often come up with the most fascinating interview answers. They’ll say things that will blow the interviewer away, by answering questions from a wholly unique perspective. For example, one time I remember asking a client to tell me which chocolate bar they most closely resembled. The client responded, by likening himself to a ‘Freddo’ because of its tendency for going up in price. Following this, he demonstrated how his talents could similarly increase the price of the business.
Unfortunately this non-conformity can be a slight turn-off for many employers, who are all-too-quick to err on the side of caution.
While convergent thinkers are more likely to logically weigh up previous examples of ‘best-practice’ in their decision making, divergent ADHDers will express their creativity in ways that pull them apart from the crowd.
When thinking up an original idea, it will come to them intuitively. It probably won’t be welcomed as the most popular decision, but it will certainly be a creative one.
The same applies when it comes to innovation. When looking to improve a product or service, the divergent thinker will draw on creative comparisons which are broad and multidimensional.
Here are some other ways divergent thinkers can add value at work:
Thinking of solutions in times of panic
Contributing to brainstorming activities
Finding new and creative ways to use technology
Unconventional ideas that colleagues are too scared to try out
Thinking of a small, but effective variation to a product
These are just a few examples of how divergent ADHDers can make a real difference in the world of work. The beauty of it is that it’s a far more artistic form of creativity which can be appreciated so much more. It can come so naturally to us, that sometimes we don’t even realise when we are doing it. Don’t fall for the trap of assuming convergent thinkers are more intelligent. And don’t force yourself into trying to think like everyone else. Allow your creativity to express itself naturally and you will see it flourish!
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