If You Care About Innovation, Hire People Who Think Differently


Photo: mutsmuts via flickr

Companies who really care about innovation should consider hiring people who see things differently.Some experts even say hiring someone with Aspergers syndrome or high-functioning Autism is a good strategy for promoting innovation.

“Innovation is all about looking at things in a new way,” says innovation consultant Phil McKinney and founder of Hacking Autism. High functioning Autistic people are “hard wired” to look at things in an unconventional way, he says. (Hacking Autism is a non-profit that creates new tech for people with Autism.)

People on the spectrum are particularly suited to the tech industry with their attention to detail, precision, affinity for repetitive tasks and natural ability with tech skills. Many of them have college degrees and IQs that are off the charts.

“They can see your product or software differently. They can figure out how something works, break down the product, find the problems and rebuild it — and they can do all that in their heads,” says Tara Roehl, McKinney’s daughter and a speech pathologist specializing in Autism.

Sadly, some 85 per cent of these tech geniuses are unemployed mostly because they are considered weird, she says. Many of them don’t get past a recruiter who can’t recognise their superior tech skills. Or they get hired, then fired, because they don’t fit in.

“If a company broke it down, what do they really want? Do they want someone who can take their product to the next level? Or do they want someone who can chitchat around water cooler? Many people on the spectrum end up losing their jobs because they can’t chitchat,” says Roehl.

Tara RoehlTara Roehl

Photo: Tara Roehl

People on the spectrum are particularly well suited for product testing and software quality assurance.  There’s even a software QA consulting company in Chicago that ONLY hires people on the spectrum:  Aspiritech.When hiring employees on the spectrum, employers should consider doing a day of extra training — not just for the employee but the co-workers. They will notice that the person is quirky and doesn’t understand social nuances. There are Autism workplace organisations like ASTEP that can help.

It’s well worth the effort, says Roehl, who says these employees are like dandelions. “If you see a dandelion is in your yard, you see it as a weed. If it’s in the kitchen, you see it as an herb that adds flavour.”

flavour is good. Particularly when it creates an awesome new product.

Don’t miss: You Can Learn To Be The Next Steve Jobs: Nine Ways To Become A Visionary

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