Lessons for Neurodiversity in the Workplace from “Neurodiversity for Dummies”

Lessons for Neurodiversity in the Workplace from "Neurodiversity for Dummies"

We were thrilled to welcome the authors of the 2024 book “Neurodiversity for Dummies” to the Uptimize monthly webinar series, to explore their journey producing the book and its importance and relevance to neurodiversity in the workplace.


Each of the three authors of “Neurodiversity for Dummies” – John Marble, Khushboo Chabria and Ranga Jayaraman – is an esteemed contributor to the neurodiversity in the workplace field. Former senior corporate executive Ranga is the Director of Neurodiversity Pathways program of Goodwill of Silicon Valley, something he was inspired to drive through his experiences of having a neurodivergent child. Both John and Khushboo have worked with Ranga in the Neurodiversity Pathways initiative, while all three have many other strings to their bows: John, for example, once worked as part of Barack Obama’s White House staff, where he became the first openly-autistic presidential staff member in American history.


Their contribution to the famous For Dummies series came after Khushboo responded to a request for possible authors on the topic, and – having presented her credentials alongside John’s and Ranga’s – the three were signed up for what would turn out to be a sizeable project. Indeed, their publisher told them that their initial chapter list was enough for three books, let alone one! Yet, after a long creative process, the resulting book is both thorough but highly readable and navigable – a triumph of balancing depth and simplicity.


Covering such a large topic, the book is comprehensive and packed with information. Some key principles, though,  shared by Ranga during the webinar, apply throughout – and I particularly wanted to re-highlight them here. These simple principles represent perfectly what we call at Uptimize the “lens” on neurodiversity that helps professionals see their colleagues (and themselves) differently, and leads to supercharged collaboration and team synergy.


So let’s explore the key principles in turn.


First Key Principle – what they call ‘The Normalcy of Neurodiversity’. Neurodiversity in the workplace may seem like “a new thing” – the belated inclusion of people who have been marginalized. In some ways, it is. But neurodiversity itself is simply part of who we are as humans – just like variations in eye color or handedness – and the authors beautifully argued in the webinar for a redefinition of human “normal” to include all our different, infinite forms of brain wiring.


To quote from “Neurodiversity for Dummies”:


“You’re differences aren’t a bug, they’re a feature. Having differences is a normal part of being human”.


Second Key Principle: Treat People With Compassion and Curiosity. Too often, neurodivergent people at work are met with confusion, suspicion, cynicism, patronising language and more. Enter every interaction with the thought that the person you’re talking to has their own strengths and their own challenges, and be curious about what you can do to help them work and contribute best.


Third Key Principle (and note how all of these relate so much to neurodiversity in the workplace specifically!): Include for Abilities. Some people are generalist all-rounders, some have a ‘spikier’ profile with exceptional strengths in some areas, and challenges in others. Help people find a sweet spot where you and they can leverage their specific strengths.


Last Key Principle: Have a Mindset of the Acceptance of Differences. Rather than suspicion, confusion or bias, recognize people simply present and work differently. Don’t expect people to fit in the mental box you’ve prepared for them – be open to different styles, different ideas, and different preferences… and good things will happen.


Each Key Principle here relates strongly to neurodiversity in the workplace. Each is something each of us can remember and apply every day.


But perhaps the best lesson of all from this webinar wasn’t in the list of Key Principles. It was in the way the authors of the book perfectly modelled and exemplified the potential of a neurodiverse team adopting neuroinclusive collaboration practices.


The team, as John shared on the webinar, didn’t always agree. Each had their own preference in terms of how to work, and strong preferences and opinions on the subject matter, too. But – equipped as they are with neuroinclusive tactics – they were able to very much embrace these differences, to be excited about the different perspectives and strengths each brought to the project, and ultimately create something that embodies the phrase “more than the sum of its parts”.


This – how people of different neurotypes can come together, perform to a high level as a team and produce something awesome – is perhaps the true lesson we can take from the authors of “Neurodiversity for Dummies” as relates to neurodiversity in the workplace.




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Ed Thompson Founder CEO Uptimize

Ed Thompson is the CEO and founder of Uptimize – a unique corporate training platform that helps organizations attract, hire and retain talent that thinks differently. Uptimize works globally with organizations like Salesforce, JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte and IBM, building robust and impactful neurodiversity at work programs. Ed has also become a frequent speaker on the topic of neurodiversity in the workplace. His book, A Hidden Force, is available now.

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