Entrepreneurs & ADHD – topic overview

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The entrepreneurial mindset and its connection with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a hot topic. Articles across The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, and Forbes Magazine, have all examined how entrepreneurship and neurodiversity – in particular ADHD -intersect, and how it creates a competitive advantage for businesses.

There are an impressive number of entrepreneurial role models worldwide who have been diagnosed with ADHD, who thrive in their pursuits, and who attribute much of their success to the strengths that come along with other ADHD symptoms. Think of Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson, Emma Watson, Ingvar Kamprad, and Michael Jordan. 

So, is there a veritable link between ADHD and entrepreneurship? Overwhelmingly, a relevant amount of studies suggest yes. 

ADDtributes of successful entrepreneurs 

An entrepreneurial mindset looks like someone who can identify a great opportunity fast, is innovative, is curious, is intuitive, is proactive and importantly, is not averse to risk-taking. Driven by dopamine, people with ADHD are more likely to take a risk – this leads to more injuries in sports but can also lead to taking a once in a lifetime leap of faith for a business opportunity.

The famous ADHD hyperfocus also comes into play; the ability to commit to a task unreservedly and for sustained periods when the brain is interested. Productivity, problem-solving and creativity are at exponential levels. Almost limitless energy can be poured into the chosen pursuit. This can create excitement and “buzz” around a project which can be particularly useful when pitching to investors. 

Crisis mode

People with ADHD can thrive in “crisis mode”. Impulsivity and risk-taking are strongly associated with ADHD. These symptoms are thought to be linked to problems with self-regulation and deficiencies in dopamine. The symptom of impulsivity can be linked to making bold and fast decisions. The nature of an entrepreneurial pursuit deems that one must be willing to make bold decisions and accept risk as a natural part of the journey. 

Many people with ADHD have dealt with failure and criticism during their lives. As every entrepreneur can attest to, one must have the resilience to get back up when things do not go as planned. People with ADHD are used to picking themselves up, dusting off, and trying again. Resilience, tenacity and passion go a long way with entrepreneurship and people with ADHD often have plenty. 

Often criticized for being late, missing deadlines or getting distracted? 

Creating your own structure and rules allows an environment where strengths can flourish and weaknesses are buoyed by a supportive team. Entrepreneurs with ADHD are also more likely to support a neurodiverse team. They are more likely to create an environment where different modes of working are encouraged and a diverse range of ideas are shared and taken seriously. 

We tend to focus on the negatives, the struggle at the workplace, school and household. for people with ADHD to fit into a structure that does neither understand their needs nor support their strengths. But when we start to move away from dated, stigmatizing ideas of what ADHD is, we create space to consider the important and substantial positive aspects of people not thinking in a neurotypical way. It is a powerful example of what is possible when people are given the right tools to thrive. 

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