Version Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life
lecture: Nerd-Wrangling 101
Managing Neurodiversity with Cognitive Empathy
Neurodiversity is the concept that neurological conditions are variations in the human genome. Therefore Autism, ADHD, and mood- and personality disorders are considered social categories intersecting with other social categories.
While "Nerd" is very broadly defined, the number of neurodiverse people within our social group is much higher than in the general population. Our social circles, our hackerspaces, our coworkers are assembled from this group. And due to these differences our groups behave differently and encounter different problems that cannot be solved with standard management 101.
Working together with a team of amazing people, nearly all of whom have distinctive cognitive needs, we found that classical management and strict structures are impediments rather than support. So we hacked around them. Like you do.
In this talk we introduce the concept of cognitive empathy: Being able to think into the brain of your peers even though you might lack affective ("classical") empathy. We will share how we came to new solutions in managing our team by figuring out each others' needs. This talk will be about superpowers and super weaknesses: how to manage them, utilize them, and create an interdependent band of superheroes for which the sum is greater than the parts.
Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that argues diverse neurological conditions are results of normal variations in the human genome.This portmanteau of neurological and diversity originated in the late 1990s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, instead asserting that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category on a par with gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability status.
The term "Nerd" broadly describes very many of the quirks that come with neurodiversity. While not all nerds are neurologically diverse, many are. ADHD and Asperger's, as well as mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, and personality disorders such as OCD are very common within the hacker scene.
This talks aims at everybody who either is themselves among the above mentioned groups or deals with neurodiverse people on a daily basis. We are coming from this perspective because we are managing a team that is neurologically diverse, but also because we are ourselves neurodiverse and have had very frustrating experiences in the past being managed by others who didn't understand our peculiarities or couldn't appropriately respond to them due to company policy.
After explaining the general concept the talk will take its time to dive into different diagnoses and pair explaining symptoms with real-world examples of how they can play out in a work setting. We will also explain why we consider some traits as superpowers in a very Marvel Comics-style sense ("The Hulk is very strong but he also smashes things to pieces"). On the other hand, we will go in-depth into what we call super-weaknesses and try to explain how to work around those or harness them for good.
Finally we will talk about some general ideas of how to address neurological diversity in a work-like environment. These respecting peoples' sensory, metabolic, biological and bio-cognitive needs. We look for Pareto improvements, meaning that solutions should benefit everyone without disadvantaging a minority. This is especially important as only benefiting a plurality can produce devastating effects on minority groups. We will therefore explain how to make "harm reduction" the highest priority.
All great ides, however, only work in an open environment where talking about such issues is accepted. Being unapologetically neurodiverse is a radical act. This talk will also explain why, and what the implications are when fostering a culture of vulnerability.