If you are among the 8 million American adults diagnosed with ADHD, you may be at an advantage when it comes to starting a small business.
Associate Professor in the E.J. Ourso College of Business Reginald L. Tucker recently published a study in the Journal of Business Venturing linking the neurological disorder to a successful career in entrepreneurship. The positive connotation is due to common ADHD traits such as impulsivity and sensation seeking.
“Entrepreneurship provides things that you are looking for when you are hyperactive,” Tucker said.
Tucker collected data from various MBA alumni who work in the business field. The study focused mainly on the trait of impulsivity and how the ability to take action can give people an edge in the business world.
While impulsivity is not an inherently positive trait, it potentially benefits CEOs and small business owners who need to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. The hyperactivity aspect of ADHD also lends itself to doing something more hands on, rather than sitting in front of a computer all day.
“It’s not categorically negative,” Tucker said. “There are some positives to be harnessed, whether it’s as an entrepreneur or allowing a person to be creative in the workplace.”
Tucker’s fascination with mental health and entrepreneurship isn’t limited to ADHD. He hopes to expand his research to explore the effects of maladaptive personality traits, such as perfectionism and narcissism, on careers in entrepreneurship. Dyslexia, dyscalculia and high-functioning autism are other neurological disorders he wishes to study in the future, although he admits that collecting the data can sometimes be a challenge.
“As researchers, we always aim to have some kind of impact,” Tucker said. “In terms of the College of Business, we could do a better job highlighting occupational choices for students that have ADHD.”
The study is Tucker’s most cited research paper to date. He recognized there is often a stigma surrounding ADHD and other neurological disorders, but said employers should consider hiring people with ADHD or people who display ADHD-like symptoms if they want new ideas and a sense of creativity in the workplace.
Despite the negative stigma, there are successful entrepreneurs with ADHD such as billionaire Richard Branson and Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. Tucker said he would like to see more people like Branson and Kamprad receiving recognition while being publicly open about their diagnoses.
“If there are more people that are successful, and admit that they have ADHD, and admit it’s beneficial to them, then you might see society change,” Tucker said.
Tucker recognized that change is going to take some time, but the situation will be improved by continued research.
Ultimately, one of the main goals of Tucker’s research is to open more doors for students with ADHD and inspire them to pursue careers in the business field, where their perceived weaknesses can become strengths.
“We want to show them, ‘Hey, although you don’t fit the traditional mold, this still could be a great career fit for you,’” Tucker said.