Tag Archives: success

ADHD’s restlessness and impulsivity could actually make you a better entrepreneur, study finds

That guy who says he has ADHD and can’t stay still in lecture? He’ll probably make a great entrepreneur when college is over, a new study has found. The disorder’s associated traits seem to foster entrepreneurship, making people more willing to embrace new experiences and demonstrate passion and persistence in their work.

Image credits Génesis Gabriella.

ADHD gets a lot of bad rep, being associated with hyperactivity, poor concentration, and impulsive behavior. And overall, it’s a disorder that’s viewed as having a negative impact on someone’s performance, be it academic or in the workplace. So why then do successful entrepreneurs often exhibit this disorder?

“We noticed sometime that some symptoms of ADHD resemble behaviors commonly associated with entrepreneurship — in a positive sense,” says Prof. Holger Patzelt of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

Working together with Professor Johan Wiklund at the Syracuse University Dimo Dimov at the University of Bath, Patzelt surveyed 14 self-employed people diagnosed with ADHD about their diagnoses, career path, and personal background. Their study shows that central traits of ADHD have had a decisive role to play in the subjects’ decision to go into business as well as their approach to entrepreneurship.

First on the list is impulsiveness. People with ADHD are notorious for their short attention span and patience, and several of the participants listed boredom as a big factor in their decision to self-employ — as it allowed them to pursue their own ideas whenever they desired. One woman said that running her own company has allowed her to introduce 250 new products in just a few years. Many participants also reported being at ease, even stimulated, by situations that others would find stressful, such as meetings with important customers.

“Their impulsiveness, resulting from ADHD, gives them the advantage of being able to act under unforeseen circumstances without falling into anxiety and paralysis,” says Patzelt.

Most of the subjects also reported they often act without thinking of the consequences, relying on intuition even for choices that have far-reaching effects. One participant described how he found out a friend was retiring and deciding to buy his company over the course of a single lunch. Others say they make investments with no strategy and are willing to commit large sums of money on projects with highly uncertain outcomes. Some say that this kind of quick decision making is key to staying productive, and are willing to suffer some setbacks from time to time — others have difficulty coping with structured activities.

This willingness to try new things and take risks is “an important entrepreneurial trait,” Parzelt says. However, he notes that these impulsive actions led to success only when they focused on activities essential to the development of the respondents’ businesses.

It’s a pretty nifty business plan.
Image credits Tumisu / Pixabay.

But it does come with a drawback, too. All participants mentioned they have problems with routine tasks such as bookkeeping.


If they develop a strong interest in a task or subject, people with ADHD can sometimes pursue it with an incredible level of single-mindedness, know as hyperfocus. One of the subjects said he often becomes completely absorbed in his work — crafting customer solutions. Another said he keeps up with new technologies in his field to such an extent that he is now often contacted as an expert on the subject.

Many of the respondents also said they work day and night without taking time off. This could come down to their hyperfocus, but can also be explained through the physical restlessness associated with ADHD. Because their energy levels can fluctuate wildly throughout the day, a self-employment model works for better for those with ADHD than traditional nine to fives, allowing them to set their own hours of work.

“ADHD was a key factor in their decision to go into business for themselves and decisively impacted important entrepreneurial traits: risk taking, passion, persistence and time commitment,” Patzelt concludes.

“Impulsiveness has a special role to play. For People with ADHD it is okay to make intuitive decisions even if the results are bad. With their passion and persistence, and the expertise they acquire as a result, entrepreneurs can gain a substantial competitive advantage.”

Roughly one-third of those surveyed either had little success in their business ventures or had them fail completely. Still, Patzelt believes his findings warrant a reassessment of our assumptions about entrepreneurship.

“The way we evaluate entrepreneurial decisions is largely based on rationality and good outcomes. In view of the multitude of uncertainties, however, can such decisions always be rational? People with ADHD show us a different logic that is perhaps better suited to entrepreneurship.”

The full paper “Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed” has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights.


There’s more to excellence than just practice, study finds


Practice isn’t all you need to become successful. Photo: muscleprodigy.com

The old adage goes ‘practice makes perfect’, and while we all know there is truth in it, at some point practice ceases to become the driving factor towards excellence, at least if we’re to judge from the recent findings of a group of psychologists who  studied how people acquire skills and become experts at what they do.

There’s quite a lot of scientific literature that suggests practice is the leading factor in achievement. Possibly the most famous study in this respect was published in 1993 by K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist. After asking violin students to estimate their lifetime practice, he found those who logged at least 10,000 hours of practice outperformed and displayed more skill than their peers who reported less hours of practice. This number was subsequently made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book  Outlier: The Story of Success, where he writes what he learned after studying successful people and what makes them tick, often citing that 10,000 hours of practice will help you become an expert.

The team shifted through 9,331 research papers about practice relating to acquiring skills and concentrated on 88 of these that collected and recorded data about practice times. Contrary to popular belief and what mainstream literature would have us believe, practice on average only explained 12 percent in mastering skills in various fields, from music, sports and games to education and professions. The contribution of practice to excellence varied from field to field as follows:  26 percent for games, 21 percent for music, 18 percent for sports, 4 percent for education and less than 1 percent for other professions.

Excellence depended even less on practice when the data used by researchers came from logged hours in a journal over time, instead of self-reporting practice habits from memory. So, what are the other factors that lead to excellence?  Confidence, positive or negative feedback, self-motivation and the ability to take risks, the researchers note. Each of these factors will be analyzed in depth by the researchers next to see what their contribution to excellent might be.

A personal note: some people might believe that practice is not so important, judging from the findings, and that if they think they’re not talented, they should not try to excel seeing how it’s useless anyway. False. The researchers themselves are careful to highlight that while the importance of practice may have been overestimated previously, it is still paramount to success.

The team was comprised of  Brooke N. Macnamara, a Case Western Reserve University assistant professor of psychology, David Z. Hambrick, from Michigan State University, and Frederick L. Oswald, from Rice University.

Their findings are in this month’s online issue of Psychological Science.