Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

The skills truly lacking…

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-04-16


The "skills shortage" is in no small way due to a lack of skill by employers and governments to make best use of the skills and aptitudes of those often sidelined.

Many intelligent people, including those on the autistic spectrum, are "odd", present management challenges, but also present huge opportunities to companies and the nation.

A Danish firm has figured out how to turn such "oddness" into a strength, employing many folk on the autism spectrum in positions where they outshine "normal" people.

A Harvard Business School Working Knowledge (2008-04-14) article describes how a consultancy (with Lego, Microsoft and Oracle as clients) uses the above-average attention-to-detail and intelligence of autism spectrum folk (including people with Asperger’s) to do software testing.  The consultancy has about 50 such employees, and pays full commercial wages for them, allows odd hours and part time work.

The firm provides world-class service, because their managers have figured out how to actually manage people, how to treat them as individuals, how to make square holes that the square pegs fit into.

There is a lesson here for Australian businesses – and governments.

Left-temporal epileptics (e.g. yours truly) are also square pegs: shocking declarative memories, unpredictable time off work, compensated for by creativity fostered by associative memory strategies, seeing novel solutions that "by the book" thinking cannot easily tackle.

Blind people, who have exceptional abilities to interpret sound, make excellent telephone operators.  If I wanted something spotless, an obsessive-compulsive might be an excellent choice.

I’m sure readers could offer many other examples.

I wonder if such issues and opportunities are covered in Australia’s business schools, whether human resources students are exposed to such ideas.  I wonder whether those in government, both politicians and senior administrators have ever realized that folk who too often become "costs" are really exceptional opportunities.

If we suffer from a skills shortage, it is too often in the managerial and political classes.  But perhaps, they are too "normal", and thus cannot think outside the square.

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7 Responses to “The skills truly lacking…”

  1. Graham Bell said

    Dave Bath:

    But this is Australia. We demand bland clones and nothing else will do.

    If The Maker intended firms to have workers who were innovative, curious, enthusiastic, thinking, creative, risk-taking, “monomaniacs on a mission”, He would have created people who were different. He didn’t – at least, not not in this firm – so that proves that all those funny-looking people with peculiar ideas don’t deserve to be employed, doesn’t it?

  2. […] just after this post comes a government consultation […]

  3. Dave Bath said

    Graham Bell:
    You say: “But this is Australia. We demand bland clones and nothing else will do”
    I say:
    The “bland clones” are our managerial class (remember the phrase “Arthur Androids”), and this is one reason why our economy and human capital lags far behind countries with small but innovative populations and management classes.

    For the record: 75% of the testers at the Danish consultancy are on the autism spectrum. They are now opening up offices in Sweden, Scotland and India. Imagine if Asperger’s folk are more productive and higher paid in India than Oz!!!

  4. […] different from the enlighted practices I discuss here (2008-04-16) and here (2008-08-14), about innovative Danish managers and how to get true […]

  5. […] Skills shortage or crap management?Robert Merkel does his defence spending thing again. […]

  6. […] are the stressors imposed upon them by a failing society.  I covered this more fully in "The skills truly lacking" […]

  7. […] as those on the autism spectrum can be talented, and these talents are sometimes best used in environments that remove them from the pressures that can come with standard business e…, perhaps the talents of those with "social autism" can be put to good use, as long as […]

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