The Neurodiversity Edge, Book Review

The Neurodiversity Edge by Dr. Maureen Dunne is an interesting read for anybody curious about the human story and our development as a society. Published by Wiley this month (March ’24), this book is a must read for anybody in business looking to manage change and development in today’s business landscape.

Review of The Neurodiversity Edge

As a former manager for 12 years, I can say that innovation, creative thinking, and constructively embracing non-linear thinking is very difficult if you don’t credibly embrace the human condition in your company culture. A publication like this supports such a view, and also provides evidence of why we should embrace neurodiversity, what we should do, and how we should do it.

The book starts off with a detailed introduction offering some revealing statistics about Gen Z born between 1997 and 2012. The survey reports that 80% would prefer to work in a company that genuinely supports neurodiversity. It offers more statistics around the fact that 1 in every 5 people identify as neurodiverse. The introduction then offers core explanations for some terms and also context for the reader, which reoccur throughout the book’s content.

This is a well-written book, and highly engaging from the very start. The author challenges us upfront with affecting questions and statements about how things actually are in today’s business world. It offers a succinct truth in statements about what neurodiverse people feel they have to do, like “… futile acting auditions when they could just be themselves instead and possibly help solve actual problems.”

Our social paradigm is changing in society, and the basic message in this book is that business is falling behind, as the gulf between token inclusion and authentic inclusion deepens. It also offers a way to gain competitive-advantage in business, by effectively adopting neurodiversity into an organization’s company culture.

The author argues that neurodiverse perspectives, often excluded from serious consideration in business, are actually an asset. The authentic embracement and inclusion of neurodiverse people into a workforce complements neurotypical colleagues. Done correctly, it fuels innovative, transformative, and creative potential from within the neurodiverse teams of the workforce. Powerful facts and exploration accompany this message, which supports the reasoning and benefits for the authentic embracement of neurodiverse thinkers.

The author structures the book into 3 parts. Part I deals with the ‘Why’ via a 4 chapter set for embracing the neurodiversity edge. It explores the background of social exclusion of the neurodiverse. It also explores the risks around groupthink, where groups become socially over-cohesive to a point where factual discourse in decision making is lost. This part also explores the business of neurodiversity inclusion, providing genuine reasons to invest in a cultural upgrade as a business, along with a guide on the aspects of its effective implementation.

Part II deals with the ‘What’, which is very relevant in modern business. It explores the gap between ‘Diversity, Equity, Inclusion’ frameworks, which can be driven by a PR agenda, or be a framework for authentic embracement of neurodiversity. It also offers a view of the rewards for making the genuine step toward embracing neurodiversity, citing a 19% increase in revenue because of neurodiverse contributions. The mix of neurotypical and neurodiverse in a complementarily model by a business sets a cultural tone for social belonging that resonates with team members achieving such optimal outcomes. The depth of understanding by the author in this 4 chapter part is truly insightful.

Part III looks at how to bring it all together. It explores how business can achieve the objectives implied by the ‘Pyramid of Neuroinclusion’. The author advises that the task is large, but so are the rewards. This 4 chapter part builds up from its foundations to recruitment and an integrated management approach. Its advocates for embracing a much wider range of leadership skills then traditionally accepted as a requirement. Flexibility and empathy in my experience have often been casualties of management politics. The author also touched on this point, making any implementation success dependent on open support from the senior leadership.

There is a lot in the conclusion to consider about what you just read. The author shared a wonderful story about an “Oxford Don” who brought her through human evolution from 109,076 BC to 2024 AD. Transformational events as a cycle occur in a reducing timeline as you travel through human history. By extension, we are on the threshold of another transformational chapter in our journey as a species.

The authors’ provision of tools to help with neurodiversity inclusion and the compelling case offered alludes to the old saying “united we stand, divided we fall.” In our every changing world where AI will never be truly creative, we need all our minds to contribute, and not only during perilous times. We need to embrace our human community in good and bad times, because that is our journey. Whether we like it or not, we are all travelling it together.

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