Interest in the Autism Advantage Luncheon Indonesia was extraordinary. A range of stakeholders representing the Indonesian government, universities, practitioners, educators, parents, self-advocates, companies, business associations and NGOs came together during the event and had the chance to hear about each others’ perspectives.
Speakers noted the challenges autistic and neurodivergent persons face in Indonesia in terms of access to education and employment. The main drivers of these challenges were identified to be a lack of awareness, as well as cultural and social stigma towards persons with disabilities in Indonesian society – which is especially a major problem across rural areas of the country.
Being a multi-cultural country with a large youth population, Indonesia faces a number of challenges, as well as opportunities. We discussed some of the opportunities in terms of triggering a large-scale attitudinal shift towards persons with disabilities by educating young people about the topic and empowering them to be a part of solution.
The government of Indonesia was well-represented at the event. Aside from the speakers, Mr. Sunarman Sukamto from the Executive Office of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, who is among the President’s advisors, also participated in the luncheon and contributed to discussions on creating an inclusive society and labour market in Indonesia.
Following the luncheon, Specialisterne Foundation hosted a workshop for further discussion on how to apply the autism advantage in the Indonesian context.
My research over the past decade suggests that companies that seek the autism advantage really do achieve competitive advantages. This is not just about doing good for the community – that matters, of course – but if you are company considering starting a neurodiversity employment program, you should do it not just for that reason, but also because it’s very good business.
major areas of benefit that we can report.
1. First, neurodiversity employment programs help companies access maximum talent to help them prevail in innovation-based competition. Many companies struggle to find enough talent in many crucial areas, such as analytics, cybersecurity, and quality assurance. These areas tend to overlap with the abilities of neurodiverse job candidates. In this day and age, we cannot afford to leave important talent un-accessed. The companies that realize this, and develop programs to broaden how they think about what constitutes talent, will likely win in the future. In innovation-based competition, companies need new, original ideas, and they need to be able to recognize new and different kinds of value. To do this they need people who think differently. They need people who are “outliers.” Neurodiversity employment programs are a very good way to accomplish this.
2. Second, one consistent finding in our research is that when we design organizational solutions for people on the autism spectrum, or for others who are neurodiverse, a large percentage of what we design usually turns out to benefit all employees. In other words, though you may start out thinking you are accommodating a special need of a particular category of employee, what become apparent after a while is that you are building capabilities for the whole firm, by making everyone better at what they are doing.
3. Third, we see very consistently that when companies implement neurodiversity employment programs, it makes all employees feel good about their work and the company. Everyone wants their work to be meaningful, and neurodiversity employment programs make people think their work is meaningful. In many cases, we see this factor supercharging the efforts of all employees, inspiring many to go the extra mile on behalf of the company.”