We’ve all know someone who shows the markers of ADHD — impulsiveness, restlessness, absentmindedness — but despite (or maybe because of these traits) has been successful at forging his or her own path. Indeed, ADHD and entrepreneurialism have longed been linked by anecdote and legend.
In this installment of my Fast Company series, Less of the Same, I had a fascinating conversation with a Syracuse researcher who has gathered solid evidence that ADHD, when well managed, can be an entrepreneurial superpower. Johan Wiklund, who himself recently discovered he has ADHD has linked impulsivity to an ability to act in highly uncertain situations that may cause others to freeze. He also has found that hyperactivity can lead to experimentation, commitment and resilience in the face of failure.
“The [ADHD entrepreneurs] I studied struggle,” Wiklund told me. “But if they had a chance to be like everyone else, none of them would take it.”
A case in point is is Keith Lemer, the CEO of WellNet Healthcare, a $150 million a year health insurance provider. Keith says he has learned to manage and even gain advantage from his non-typical ways of operating. He says it takes effort not to talk a mile a minute, not to show impatience or to tune out in meetings when he gets bored. But he says his ADHD also allows him to hyperfocus when he needs it and to shrug off the inevitable failures he experiences.“I have to work very hard to be Keith Lemer, the put together CEO,” he says. “Inside I often feel ongoing chaos.”
This article allowed me to get deep into the unusual minds of Wiklund and Lemer. What I found is that ADHD is indeed a disorder with plenty of serious pitfalls but also solid advantages we all could benefit from understanding and harnessing.