Neurodiversity, ADHD and Creativity

Written by Shannon Grassby, Clinical Psychologist

What is creativity, but impulsivity gone right? Ned Hallowell

The traditional medical model generally states that having a brain that works, or is wired a little differently only comes with negatives and draw backs. However, the neurodiversity movement has allowed us to have a greater understanding of not just the challenges, but also the strengths and positives that can come along with having a brain that is different from “typical.

Creativity is generally accepted to be one of these areas of strength for neurodiverse people, especially ADHDers. The ability to approach a problem from a different viewpoint, thinking outside the box or “laterally”, or having a big picture view is a strength that more and more industries and workplaces are seeking to have within their workforce or within entrepreneurs. But what is creative thinking, and are ADHDers more likely to engage in it?

What is creative thinking?

Creativity as a concept, is tricky to study as it is a combination of different traits and abilities. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines creative thinking as “the competence to engage productively in the generation, evaluation, and improvement of ideas that can result in original and effective solutions, advances in knowledge and impactful expressions of imagination”. Creativity can then be thought of as the number of ideas, the diversity of the ideas and the newness of the ideas that someone is able to generate.

Creative thinking relates to a person’s ability to think divergently as well as convergently, make new associations between concepts, constructing and combining broad categories of concepts to solve novel problems, and also the ability to work on many ideas simultaneously. Whilst convergent thinking is seeking to find the one, most effective solution to a problem and is quite linear in its style, divergent thinking is seeking to find multiple possible solutions to the problem and is non-linear in fashion.

These broadly relate to cognitive skills, but there are also a range of other factors that influence creative thinking, including motivation, desire for novelty, risk taking, flexibility and adaptability, ability to work independently, and having a positive attitude to things and ideas that are different. There are also personality traits that are helpful for creative thinking - openness to new experiences, tolerance, the ability to work well within uncertainty, adventurousness and emotional sensitivity.

Neurodiversity and Creativity

Many of the above features and characteristics of creativity as described above can easily be used to describe the strengths we see in neurodiverse individuals, including ADHDers and Autistic people. Whilst we are aware of the importance of diversity within groups to assist in solving problems, we are becoming more aware of the power of neurodiversity within groups and workforces to increase productivity, creativity and profitability to the business.

Research has shown that individually, neurodivergent people may be more creative in how they complete tasks. One study has shown that when neurodiverse people are paired together to solve a problem, they created a more diverse range and wider range of different ideas than when compared to a neurotypical pair. This indicates the presence of greater divergent thinking, a key component of creative thinking.

ADHD and Creativity

The strengths that ADHDers often describe as going along with their brain style include;

  • Flexibility
  • Hyperfocus
  • Openness
  • Curiosity
  • High energy or hyperactivity, including speed of thought
  • Spontaneity

These strengths are uniquely suited to divergent thinking as part of creativity.

ADHDers are often described as operating well in a crisis, being used to working within a sense of urgency. ADHDers are often quick learning, quick to habituate or “get used to” something, and so are often seeking newness and novelty in their world, leading them to seek new ideas and experiences.

ADHD is a brain style that has been highly linked with creativity and entrepreneurship. Many ADHDers find themselves in their adult lives as self-employed, or involved in their own or others business whose focus is innovation and entrepreneurial. In this way, ADHDers often seek to craft their own roles or places which are best suited to their brain style and strengths.

Studies have also shown that the symptoms associated with hyperactivity are strongly correlated with entrepreneurial intent. This suggests that a focus on innovation, proactiveness and risk-taking is highly advantageous within the context of driving change and creative thought as part of being an entrepreneur or forming your own business. It is also important for ADHDers to consider how they can take advantage of their “interest-based learning” brains, and understanding how to channel this passion, interest and potential hyperfocus into work that is meaningful to them.

Ready to Find out More?

At Spencer Health, we have a range of experienced clinicians who are interested in working with and supporting neurodiverse individuals, including children, adolescents and adults, from a strengths-based model so that them and their families can understand how to harness their strengths to form a meaningful life.

For adults and adolescents that are looking to understand how they can harness their strengths and support their differences as part of their brain style, Spencer Health offer ADHD Coaching services, which offer a practical and problem-solving based approach to providing neuroaffirming strategies, tailored to an individual’s needs

For younger children and adolescents, our KidsLink groups offer a safe space to develop a sense of belonging with your neurokin, through art therapy

For more information, please contact us or visit our website to see which member of our friendly team would be best suited to support you or your child


Bigozzi, L., Tarchi, C., Pinto, G., & Donfrancesco, R. (2016). Divergent thinking in Italian students with and without reading impairments. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 63(4), 450-466.

Dahmen-Wassenberg, P., Kämmerle, M., Unterrainer, H. F., & Fink, A. (2016). The relation between different facets of creativity and the dark side of personality. Creativity Research Journal, 28(1), 60-66.

Hatak, I., Chang, M., Harms, R. et al. ADHD symptoms, entrepreneurial passion, and entrepreneurial performance. Small Bus Econ 57, 1693–1713 (2021).

Mevarech, Z. R., & Paz-Baruch, N. (2022). Meta-creativity: what is it and how does it relate to creativity?. Metacognition and Learning, 17(2), 427-441.

Verheul, I., Rietdijk, W., Block, J. et al. The association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) symptoms and self-employment. Eur J Epidemiol 31, 793–801 (2016).

Wiklund, J., Yu, W., Tucker, R., & Marino, L. D. (2017). ADHD, impulsivity and entrepreneurship. Journal of Business Venturing, 32(6), 627-656.

Wiklund, J., & Pérez-Luño, A. (2021). ADHD Symptoms, Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO), and Firm Performance. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 45(1), 92-117.

Zenasni, F., Besançon, M., & Lubart, T. (2008). Creativity and tolerance of ambiguity: An empirical study. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 42(1), 61-73.