Best of….Differently-Abled

by Edward Henkler on December 31, 2013

What would you do if someone offered you an option to increase your revenue, improve retention, and drive innovation and creativity, all while doing something good for society?  I would hope the answer is obvious and will therefore ask how many individuals who are “differently-abled” are employed by your organization.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “differently-abled” is the globally appropriate term for what we in the US call disabled.  If you don’t have significant representation, then you are giving up the option I mentioned in the opening question.

The blue ribbon winners

The winners – best of

Limitations: Unless you’ve read “A Sense of the World” by Jason Roberts, it is likely that you’ve never heard of Lieutenant James Holman.  James was born in 1786 and lived until 1856.  The Blind Traveler, as he was known, covered over 250,000 miles (more than the distance to the moon), mostly by foot or horse/horse drawn vehicle.  In total, he visited five continents and interacted with at least 200 distinct cultures, mostly without the assistance of anyone else.  Although he was completely blind, his descriptions of flora and fauna were so exacting that James Audubon included them in his observations.  Read more at Most Limitations are Self-imposed.

Hiring people who are differently-abled:  Unemployment rates are quite high nowadays, perhaps even into the double digits, dependent on the source of information.  Clearly a problem, until you consider that unemployment amongst individuals who are blind or low vision is in excess of 70%.  Why are employers so reluctant to hire people who are differently-abled?

Let’s look at the facts:

  • People who are differently abled are one of the fastest growing demographics in the world, ~ 750 million in ’09 with baby boomers likely to drive that number much higher
  • $220B in discretionary income in the U.S. in ‘09
  • $3T in discretionary income globally in ’09, according to the National Organization on Disabilities

Read more at Why is there so much reluctance to hire people who are differently-abled?

Cognitive Diversity: I am a huge believer in the value of diversity yet sometimes think we may miss an opportunity.  Too often we measure diversity solely by superficial characteristics.  While that has value in creating opportunities for underserved populations, it may not unleash cognitive diversity, which will fire your team’s imagination and help you realize their true potential.

Take a look at Dr. Janice Presser’s teamability concept if you want to create a cognitively diverse team.

Read more at Value of Cognitive Diversity.

More cognitive diversity: The concept of young geniuses and old masters dates back to the ancient art world, but has equal application in the business world.  The best teams exhibit cognitive diversity.  Aside from choosing team members with superficially different backgrounds (physical diversity), including at least one young genius and one old master may be key to establishing a rich discourse.  The young genius isn’t bound by preconceptions and a lifetime of experiences.  Revolutionary insights may be the norm but consistency is only likely if procedures are established and followed.  The old master has a more strategic perspective and is willing to take longer to identify and implement a solution.  “Gut feeling” sounds unregulated and poorly quantified but is more likely to represent a lifetime of experiences and an intuitive sense of the right approach.

Read more at Young Geniuses and Old Masters – more cognitive diversity.


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