ADHD represents a nervous system that works flawlessly, but on its own set of rules. This is the starting point for anyone trying to understand and manage ADHD, both in themselves and in others. ADHD isn’t a typical brain with a bundle of dysfunctions; it’s an entirely different nervous system.

For those with this neurological makeup, boredom and lack of engagement can be nearly physically painful. However, if an individuals with ADHD can immerse themselves in an engaging task, they can accomplish nearly anything. It is a system that operates on an “all or nothing,” “now or not now” system, and novelty wears off quickly.

William W. Dodson outlined the ICNU model, which provides a deeper understanding of decision-making and motivation in people with ADHD. Dodson is a recognized American psychiatrist specializing in adult ADHD. His model revolves around four criteria: Interest, Challenge, Novelty, and Urgency.

So, how do each of these elements relate to the workplace, and how can we support employees with ADHD without imposing rigid rules?

Interest/Passion: People with ADHD thrive when the subject is engaging and aligns with their interests. Boredom is their kryptonite. Recognizing and being aware of these areas can significantly boost motivation. Discovery tools include team-building exercises available in various organizations or simply initiating a conversation. Weekly updates, catch-ups, performance reviews, feedback, project statuses are all available touchpoints. Gathering insights about preferences and interests is vital, not just in the context of neurodiversity. If we know our employee is particularly interested in technology, we might assign them more tasks related to new tech or innovations. This feeds their neural drive, enhancing motivation and job satisfaction. It’s not about providing tech tasks all the time but striking a balance.

Novelty: While new experiences tend to attract most people, it’s especially true for those with ADHD. New tasks are more engaging and easier to focus on. Indeed, research shows that children with ADHD handle new material better than familiar ones. To introduce novelty, a manager might assign an employee to devise a new data presentation method, like creating an interactive chart or infographic. This allows them to harness their creativity and innovation, heightening interest and engagement.

Challenge: Individuals with ADHD excel when faced with challenges in their roles. Beyond creating standard reports, one might encourage the employee to explore various data analysis methods and visualization techniques to deliver results in a more engaging way. It means acquiring new skills and stepping out of their comfort zone, but the challenge must align with their career stage. Remember, for some, interpersonal relationships or collaboration might be as motivating as a challenge. Relationships or working partnerships can be equally powerful motivators.

Urgency: A looming deadline immediately makes a task more appealing. It might necessitate innovative solutions when standard approaches aren’t feasible. It’s a win for the ADHD neurotype. Moreover, those with ADHD respond better to external motivation, and a set deadline is definitely one. If a project has multiple stages, setting separate deadlines for each rather than one final deadline might work best. But remember, sustained intense efforts require energy replenishment. Take care of that.


I’d add “Autonomy” to this list. The freedom in deciding how to accomplish a task, choosing the approach to achieve a goal, gives a genuine sense of influence. If the employee delivers as expected, isn’t it worth investing in such flexibility?

There’s a misconception that adjusting the work environment for those with ADHD involves complex strategies or favoring. In reality, it can be quite simple and revolves around understanding the ICNU (and Autonomy) criteria.

Neurodiversity is undoubtedly an asset, but it shines with proper accommodations and broad-based normalization. Let’s design solutions to support every team member so they can succeed regardless of their neurotype. After all, it’s about equal opportunities.