ADHD and entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship can sometimes feel like an irrational and impulsive thing as you battle against all odds to try and make something work that all logic suggests will not.  Such impulsiveness and fearlessness are the kind of symptoms often seen in people diagnosed with ADHD, so a recent study set out to examine whether ADHD is more common in entrepreneurs than the rest of the population.

There are some prominent entrepreneurs with the condition, and it emerged that many found it advantageous rather than a problem for them.

“With the disorganisation, procrastination and inability to focus, and all the other bad things that come with ADD, there also come creativity and the ability to take risks,” one entrepreneur said.

Context is key

As such, the key appears to be the context as much as the condition itself.  By acting impulsively, it places intuition at the heart of our decision making process.  What’s more, the impatience that’s common in many ADHD sufferers imbues them with a proactivity that is sometimes lacking in others.

Indeed, one entrepreneur interviewed for the study revealed that they had introduced 250 new products in just a few years.  This desire for new things propels risk taking and improvisation, and whilst such churn could be stressful for many, for those with ADHD it brings a profound sense of stimulation.

What’s more, this intensive concentration and absorption in a task can give rise to a level of passion, persistence and commitment that are hugely beneficial, especially in startups where staff are all hands to the pump.  Indeed, this is often more so in a startup environment where the business is their own, and therefore they are in control of their environment, whereas in a corporate environment it can be restrictive.

Of course, not all startups succeed, and indeed the majority will fail.  This likelihood of failure paralyzes many of us from even embarking on the journey.  The study suggests however that ADHD allows many entrepreneurs to shortcut through this indecision, with their decisiveness very much anchored internally as something they simply believe is right.

It’s an interesting paper as so often we regard ADHD purely in terms of its negative consequences, but it can also provide a number of positive outcomes, not least in the entrepreneurial world. Indeed, perhaps in entrepreneurial situations it shouldn’t be called a disorder at all.


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