Is ADHD Good for Entrepreneurship?

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

As ADHD diagnoses become more common, there is a focus on where those with ADHD work best. One of those areas in which ADHD is often viewed as strength is entrepreneurship. For today's article, I was fortunate enough to collaborate with John Torrens, fellow ADHD entrepreneur, author, and professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University.

Approximately 4 percent of the U.S. adult population is thought to have ADHD, and a 2016 survey of children's health in the U.S. found 8.4% of children in the U.S. received a diagnosis of ADHD [1], [2]. For many of these ADHD adults, studies have found a higher likelihood of entrepreneurial intentions compared to their neurotypical peers [3]– [5]. So, does this mean those with ADHD have the traits that make them good at business development, or are they just more likely to try entrepreneurship?

Below, we've outlined three areas that address this question by describing the pros and cons of ADHD entrepreneurship, as well as some suggestions to help you stay on course when striving for entrepreneurial goals.

1. Impulsivity Versus Forward-Motion

One of the defining traits for diagnosing ADHD is impulsivity [9]. Those with higher impulsivity tendencies are more likely to take action quickly and without preplanning [6]. While impulsivity can be negative in many circumstances, in entrepreneurship, this can also be reframed as forward-motion—the tendency to act when faced with a difficult decision. This action can help an entrepreneur navigate the analysis paralysis common among business owners with decisions to make and unclear information.

2. Inattention Versus Selective Hyperfocus

It's commonly known that those with ADHD can struggle with attention, and that's true! We can find it challenging to focus on boring administrative tasks, and that can be a challenge when our business includes those tedious tasks [7]. However, another element of ADHD, as noted by Wiklund and colleagues [6], is the ability to be wholly absorbed and concentrate on the things we enjoy. This could also be described as an intense form of flow [8].


So, if you have ADHD and business is something you enjoy, ADHD could help you feel completely absorbed in business tasks. The difficulty here is to focus on areas that actually grow your business (which will involve prioritising) and delegate those administrative tasks that you find boring as soon as possible. Wiklund and colleagues [6] found that when ADHD entrepreneurs were hyper-focused on their business activities, they acquired expertise in that area that helped them make those forward-motion decisions.

3. High Energy Versus Inconsistent Energy

It wasn't just the activities of entrepreneurship that suited someone with ADHD; it was also the environment [6]. ADHD respondents noted overall higher energy levels than their neurotypical peers. However, they also noticed their energy levels tended to vary. Therefore, when provided with a non-traditional work environment where they could work during high energy and rest during low energy periods, there was increased overall productivity [6].

ADHD does not mean that you will automatically be an excellent entrepreneur. But, there are elements of ADHD that seem to be well suited to thrive in the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Entrepreneurship can reward forward-motion over analysis-paralysis, allow hyper-focus and delegation, and accommodate shifting energy levels. Working with a mentor or coach to stay focused and prioritise important tasks can help support your ADHD and maintain your momentum as an entrepreneur.

Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand ADHD entrepreneurship and provided you with strategies to support your journey.

Talk to you next week.

Skye.



John Torrens is an ADHD entrepreneur, professor, and author of 'Lighting in a Bottle: How entrepreneurs can harness their ADHD and win'. You can learn more at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmtorrens/


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References

[1] 'CNS volume 13 supplement 12 Cover and Front matter', CNS Spectr., vol. 13, no. S12, pp. f1–f3, Aug. 2008, doi: 10.1017/S1092852900003151.

[2] M. L. Danielson, R. H. Bitsko, R. M. Ghandour, J. R. Holbrook, M. D. Kogan, and S. J. Blumberg, 'Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016', J. Clin. Child Adolesc. Psychol., vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 199–212, Mar. 2018, doi: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860.

[3] D. A. Lerner, I. Verheul, and R. Thurik, 'Entrepreneurship and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a large-scale study involving the clinical condition of ADHD', Small Bus. Econ., vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 381–392, Aug. 2019, doi: 10.1007/s11187-018-0061-1.

[4] J. M. T. Ph.D, Lightning in a Bottle: How Entrepreneurs Can Harness Their ADHD to Win. Independently published, 2021.

[5] W. Yu, J. Wiklund, and A. Pérez-Luño, ‘ADHD Symptoms, Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO), and Firm Performance’, Entrep. Theory Pract., vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 92–117, Jan. 2021, doi: 10.1177/1042258719892987.

[6] J. Wiklund, H. Patzelt, and D. Dimov, 'Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed', J. Bus. Ventur. Insights, vol. 6, pp. 14–20, Dec. 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.jbvi.2016.07.001.

[7] G. Tripp and J. R. Wickens, 'Neurobiology of ADHD', Neuropharmacology, vol. 57, no. 7–8, pp. 579–589, Dec. 2009, doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2009.07.026.

[8] M. Csikszentmihalyi, Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. Basic Books, 1997.

[9] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5., Fifth edition.. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.


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