How many times have you heard “There is no “I” in TEAM.” This is wrong. I believe there is a very important “I”, which is hidden in plain sight. Before we finish, I will show you the “I”. But, I am doing tell & show instead of the conventional direction. Now about the missing “I” in TEAM and some unique people this important “I” represents.
I will start with myself as an example. In the normal diversity buckets I am a majority white male. Missing is I am autistic with Asperger’s. I’ve worked 20+ years with computer databases and as a product design engineer for 10. The traits of being an Aspie (someone who has Asperger’s) gave me the mental disposition to excel in technical pursuits. Other Asperger’s traits caused me to ineffectively communicate with neurotypically minded employees. My biggest Asperger’s strength is my ability to view patterns and relationships and conceive them as real objects. Yes, I live in the land of imagination we all did as children!
Try looking at the six different versions of the word TEAM to find an “I”. What gives Tim? Are you still in dream land? Nope, I say there is an “I”. The problem is how you are looking at it, not me being crazy. Consider Neurodiversity and specifically my “Cloud” concept of it which I’ll explain. Neurodiversity is the idea that just like every other part of our bodies vary to some degree, our brain structure and actual thinking and processing approach can also vary from individual to individual. Sort of like Mac, Windows, Linux being different processing approaches for the same device.
Just as being tall or short gives you benefit and liabilities, there is no perfect height. For the range of things humans do it’s advantageous to have both extremes and everything in between. I believe the same variations in our brains and how they process is equally or even more advantageous. But, only if we create the environment where we recognize these mental differences and use the strengths of the diversity to support the weaknesses in each other. Just like you would have the tall person get the things on the top shelf and someone at the short end to get the low shelf items, you should have the person with social skills and the person without handle different tasks that match their strengths.
Neurodiversity says there exists a range of cognitive traits and processing styles that humans can exhibit. These traits combine in various arrangements of both presence and magnitude as influenced by genetics and environment for any individual. For certain combinations and magnitudes, we have defined names like Asperger’s, Autism, ASD, ADHD, etc. For others we have no specific diagnostic name, we just consider it personality traits. In my “Cloud Neurodiversity” model we start with the entire range of traits humans have. That is the Cloud. Within the Cloud are 2 categories containing all the possible combinations of presence and intensity of this cloud of potential traits. The categories are Neurotypical or Neurodiverse. Neurotypical is the group of personality trait combinations which a society would consider as fitting in the range considered to be normal. Neurodiverse are all the rest that do not fit into the Nerotypical mold.
What does this have to do with the “I” that you might think I am hallucinating? The “I” is one of the most important letters in team. This “I” is individual as in every individual has a unique perspective and set of skills. It is not uncommon for some of the skills or uniqueness to require a special environment to flourish. Without the proper support and understanding of all sides, the incredible brilliant ideas and unique perspectives remain hidden. Much like an orchid which takes special conditions to thrive. Others on a team could be dandelions which thrive anywhere. The “I” is about recognizing the individual skills and talent on a team while recognizing the environment needed for each individual to contribute at their maximum potential and be fully engaged.
The “I” in teams means each member must give and take so all can shine. Much as when you interact with an artist, you know it is going to be a different experience than the normal business person and allow them leeway. I propose we expand this thinking to dealing with the entire spectrum in the neurodiverse cloud. Accept they may perceive the world differently from you. That difference can give you a view you cannot see. Accept their perceptions as an equally legitimate view of the world as yours. When I explain the different perception needed to see the “I”, I am hoping you will see the value of highly different perspectives. Those perspectives can more than compensate for the support needed to help the neurodiverse flourish.
The perspective for the “I” in TEAM starts with the idea there are many ways to look at an image. Most of us, particularly with text, have created a habit where we look at the letters. In the art world this is the positive space. But if you instead look at the patterns formed by the background shapes coming through and around the letters you will see different shapes. This is negative space and is every bit as real and necessary. But we are trained to look at the positive spaces and only see the letter TEAM. In the picture below to help you see the negative space “missing I”, the background and letter colors were reversed with a little outline border of the text. I think you will now clearly see the “I” much of the corporate world is missing as well as where it is in the TEAM.
Just as the “I” in each of these teams is a little different, never forget that you are a team of individuals and you hurt yourself and team if you don’t consider and utilize differences of each individual.
Tim Goldstein, Neurodiversity Communication Expert
© Wiser Ltd 2017
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