Why neurodiversity and diversity of thought is so important in business

Holly Branson disucssing neurodiverisity on the auticon podcast with Carrie Grant MBE
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 16 December 2022

It was so inspiring to join auticon’s podcast, Autism: In conversation with auticon. I’ve spoken about this brilliant company quite a few times over the years, after investing in the business in 2016. auticon is an IT and recruitment firm that employs autistic people as technology consultants for businesses all around the world. The team is doing such important work to help people with autism find meaningful work, and help businesses understand the wonderful benefits of a neurodivergent workplace.  

The podcast series has been such a powerful way of highlighting these benefits (and there are many benefits, no matter what sector your company operates in), while also discussing some of the challenges faced by adults with autism who are trying to find their place in workplaces that have rarely been designed with them in mind.

The series is hosted by Carrie Grant MBE who has four neurodivergent children of her own and has so much knowledge and passion for the subject. Neurodiversity is also a topic close to my heart as my dad, husband and son have dyslexia, so I understand first-hand why it’s so important (and beneficial) to make schools, workplaces and all areas of society as inclusive as possible for neurodivergent people.

Richard Branson with his grandchildren, Artie and Etta, on Necker Island
Richard Branson

During our conversation, we spoke about everything from the system change that needs to happen with education, to inclusive recruitment practices, and why we need diversity of thought in business. We also explored about some of the biggest stumbling blocks that businesses face when building a diverse workforce and what can be done to overcome them. The reach and engagement of our Dyslexic Thinking campaign with Made By Dyslexia and LinkedIn clearly shows that there is an appetite for diversity of thought in businesses. We all need to keep the momentum going and do as much as we can to spread the message that neurodiversity is a superpower!

Dyslexic Thinking

We also discussed the importance of exposure and proximity and taking the time to connect with neurodivergent people in order to understand them. When I was 16, I volunteered at an autistic school and the experience has always stuck with me. It broadened my mindset and inspired me to always be as inclusive as possible. As I mentioned on the podcast: "It made me understand the importance of looking at the whole person ... not just what you see on the surface."

When talking about diversity of thought, we spoke about why it’s so important for broadening perspectives and bringing in new ideas:

People have realised that diversity of thought is critical in society. We focus on diversity of thought in business as it gives new perspectives, and you get new ideas. It encourages innovation, and you break down barriers. I really think if you can be as diverse as possible, you’ll also help your business to reflect the communities it serves.

I loved Carrie’s comment on breaking the cycle of carbon copy leaders, as this is one sure fire way of discouraging thought diversity. For all businesses, it’s crucial to encourage as many different points of views, life experiences and ways of thinking - not only in your teams but in your leadership positions too.

Holly Branson with Ajaz Ahed and James Rutter speaking at an 100% Human At Work gathering
Tom Sopper

Thank you to Carrie for such an inspiring and eye-opening discussion, and thank you to auticon for paving the way toward a more inclusive, thriving, divergent and vibrant world.

Listen to the full episode here.