ADHD + Entrepreneurship with Professor Johan Wiklund of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management
We speak to Professor Johan Wiklund of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management about his thoughts on the connection between ADHD and entrepreneurship. With over twenty-five years of research under his belt, he has a lot to share.
Right away, Johan acknowledges that entrepreneurs “come in all shapes and forms.” His interest, however, lies in how ADHD characteristics intersect with energetic business innovation. Though those with ADHD often struggle to focus on “boring stuff,” the flip side is that when interested in a project, their intensity of interest can translate to working “twice as hard as people without it.” Moreover, tendencies toward direct action and risk-taking underpin both ADHD and entrepreneurship.
Johan points out that an important distinction to make between the characteristic “inability to focus” for those with ADHD is that, in fact, it’s an inability to focus on things they don’t like.
One solution? “If you want to be an entrepreneur with ADHD, it’s critically important that you get other people to do those boring tasks.” He tells us this theme has arisen time and again in the ten studies he has conducted throughout six countries worldwide.
Important too is recognizing that those with ADHD with face unique challenges in life. Schooling can be a struggle and employment options are limited. From this, though, arises a “tenacity” and “level of resilience” that neurotypical people might not develop with as much rigor. The ability to think creatively and productively in the face of adversity is an absolute benefit to entrepreneurship.
When asked about what the main takeaways for entrepreneurs with ADHD are, Johan had this advice:
1. Outsource—i.e. get somebody else to do your business books and “boring stuff.”
2. Schedule—Despite being structure-averse, it can nevertheless be beneficial to incorporate some into your day-to-day to avoid burnout. He says, “Get discipline in terms of eating and sleeping and exercising.”
3. Self-insight—Know your strengths and weaknesses.
4. Self-care—Johan’s studies have shown those with ADHD require more self-care than the neurotypical. Specifically, “mindfulness, meditation, and exercise are about as effective as the traditional medicines” prescribed for ADHD.
More about the study discussed in this interview.