When we hear the term “ADHD” we often immediately think of that kid in the classroom who can listen, can’t stop throwing paper balls across the room, bothering other children and essentially disrupting the entire class. But what if this interpretation is wrong? What if there is an upside to ADHD?
Many successful entrepreneurs have reported having ADHD. “We noticed sometime that some symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship – in a positive sense,” says Prof. Holger Patzelt of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
Patzelt stresses the adaptive role of impulsiveness. For instance, when others have trouble coping with highly stressful conditions, people with ADHD thrive in these situations. “Their impulsiveness gives them the advantage of being able to act under unforeseen circumstances without falling into anxiety and paralysis,” he explains.
People with ADHD also make quick decisions, often based on intuitive feelings. Some entrepreneurs, notes Patzelt, believe that this kind of quick decision making is the only way to be productive, and are willing to live with setbacks as a result. He says, “A marked willingness to try out new things and take risks is an important entrepreneurial trait.”
These people are also reported to have what is called “hyperfocus”. Becoming completely absorbed in an activity, being insanely persistent and refusing to quit, often lends entrepreneurs a substantial competitive advantage.
Lastly, people with ADHD have such a high activity level that it is not uncommon for them to work day and night. While this mitigates physical restlessness, it also leads to some serious work output. Patzelt also notes that for people with ADHD, “it is okay to make intuitive decisions even if the results are bad.”
In a world that is inherently uncertain and outcomes are not guaranteed, making quick decisions, utilizing hyperfocus and working harder that everyone else has a major competitive advantage – even if it is one that is often overlooked. It might just be one way to reframe that disruptive behavior.