#007 - Autism and the Untapped Potential /w Rebecca Beam & Chad Hahn

Show Notes

Episode Contents


In this episode we will answer some of the following questions:

  • What misconceptions there are surrounding autism and what misconception’s Rebecca had when she took on the role as the CEO of auticon US
  • Where autists outpreform neurologically typical employees and what types of challenges they face
  • How auticon employs autistic individuals to solve some of the most complex problems for their clients and how they provide them with cutting-edge solutions
  • What auticon‘s training process for people on the spectrum looks like
  • What accommodations need to be made for people on the spectrum and how companies need to change their interview and hiring process to employ a more neurodivese workforce
  • What intelligence agencies and large corporations around the world already have neurodiverse programs and how they are leveraging people with disabilities for their purpose
  • Why not more companies are hiring people on the spectrum
  • How companies need to stop focusing solely on social skills and experience during their hiring process
  • Why people on the spectrum produce better managers and in some cases are better managers themselves
  • Why every company should employ neurodiverse talents and what recommendations my guests have for companies wanting to employ a more neurodiverse workforce
  • And finally, why this area will be the next big wave of innovation.




  • In order to tackle some of the most complex challenge we face as a human species, we need all people with vastly different talents, background and skillets involved - it doesn't matter if these talents have disabilities or disorders. The time where we could be picky on who to include has definitely passed.
  • Sure, we humans are hard-wired to like people who are similar to us. But in today‘s world that is becoming ever more complex, we need people from all walks of life that are not only different, but also think and yes, might even act very different from ourselves.
  • There is no shortage of talent - only a lack of imagination to include those people who currently don‘t fit nicely into companies’ standardized interview process so they can tick off those boxes that lie to them in reaffirming their candidate is the right fit for the company.
  • There‘s a famous aphorism that says „Beggars can‘t be choosers!“ If companies are complaining about a shortage of talent and they’re not willing to adapt their hiring, let alone their interview process, but on the other side there are so many untapped talent pools out there, companies have absolutely no right complaining.
  • What about older professionals that are above 50 years of age, which German companies in particular love to discriminate against. And why are companies still expecting the date of birth on CVs? What possible insights do you expect from that information other than to discriminate against older professionals. Why not just substitute the DOB with the candidate shoes size?
  • Or think of mothers in maturity leave. Most companies are pretty slow in allowing employees to work from home. Why not let employees take care of their children and work from home. Shouldn‘t the result by itself matter and not where and how employees achieve these results?
  • Remember, the time before there was online banking? Does it really matter from where you do your banking nowadays? Of course it doesn't. So why don‘t you apply the same thinking with your most valuable asset companies have?
  • Rebecca & Chad dismantled almost every possible excuse companies like yourself could have to avoid hiring neurodiverse people. If companies are not quite ready yet to hire such people, they can outsource their projects to companies such as auticon, Passwerk and other and have these talents solve your complex problems or have these talents work along side their current teams and gain some experience with working with neurodiverse people.
  • For companies to be able to hire people of all walks of life, not just autism or any other disability, they need to stop solely relying on social skills when it comes to hiring. Companies need to stop the compulsive behaviour of forcing or retraining people on the spectrum to behave more like non-autistic people and change your interview process.
  • Remember, the list of things you are not supposed to do in a job interview is practically a definition of autism, as Steve Silberman, the author of Neurotribes, a book which looks at the evolution of autism, said so eloquently.
  • Companies don’t need to say they require X no. years of this or that, or the other, or these degrees and certifications, because, sorry to break it to HR people, at the end of the day those things have very little correlation with on-the-job performance for anyone. Especially in a more volatile and uncertain world.
  • The Florida State University reviewed 81 studies to look for a link between an employee’s prior work experience and his/her performance in a new organization.
  • They found no significant correlation between the two. Even when people had completed tasks, held roles, or worked in functions or industries relevant to their current ones, it did not translate into better performance.
  • The conclusion? Experience doesn’t predict a new hire’s success.
  • Chad is another good example of this. Remember at the beginning of the interview, he mentioned, he didn't have any experience in social work, but was able to solve a pressing problem his wife had, that actually had extensive experience and formal training in social work? But yet, Chad with his very different background and his personal experience with autism, he was able to solve this problem.
  • Often it takes people from a very different backgrounds to solve a very big problem. Even the inventor of the digital camera, Steven Sasson once famously said: Innovation best comes from people who really know nothing about the topic.
  • Companies need to focus on strengths not deficits! And look for two things during and interview process:

1. Coachability: give someone feedback and see how they do.
2. Learning agility: Throw a bunch of new tools at someone and see how well they can learn it.

  • And as a result companies can take someone, who has never done the thing that a company is hiring for, they have very high degree of confidence that they’ve found someone that will not only be good at their job but great at it.
  • Large companies such as SAP and Microsoft are leading the pack with their neurodiversity programs.
  • In 2013 SAP launched a program where they currently employ 160 autists, across 13 countries. And SAP’s Autism at Work program has a 90% retention rate of hires on the autism spectrum because it creates a system of support around those employees.
  • Similar results can be found at Microsoft.
  • And, it even makes better managers - as these companies have proven.
  • If governmental agencies such as the GCHQ and the Israeli army have neurodivese programs, why can‘t private companies?
  • To address those out there listening that feel out of place, see under appreciated, different, have a disorder or a disability, be encouraged by the following:
    • You should look at yourself as a color. You may not be everybody‘s favourite, but one day you will meet someone or a company who needs YOU to complete their picture (or their team).
    • There‘s also a famous quote that says: The razor blade is sharp but can’t cut a tree; the axe is strong but can’t cut the hair.
    • Essentially meaning that everyone is important according to his or her own unique purpose.
    • So no one should ever look down on anyone unless they’re admiring their shoes as the old adage goes.
    • You’re perfect just the way you are, you shouldn’t feel the need for any blending or social camouflaging.


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Follow/Add the Podcast Host/Guest on:

David C. Luna:  LinkedIn | XING |

Rebecca Beam (President at auticon US) LinkedIn | Twitter

Chad Hahn (Founder of MindSpark Inc.) E-Mail LinkedIn | Twitter

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#007 - Autism and the Untapped Potential /w Rebecca Beam & Chad Hahn

This podcast looks at innovators and companies that are changing the game and how they took their initial idea and created a game-changing product or service, while giving you unique perspectives and insights you’ve probably haven’t heard elsewhere.

David and his guests discuss real-world practical advice on how to best harness the creativity of your employees and go from idea to product or service that has the potential to radically transform your business.

They also share lessons they’ve learned along the way to effectively accelerate, incubate and scale innovations within small, medium and large enterprises, all while separating hype from reality and replacing bullshit bingo with common sense.

The show is hosted by David C. Luna, author, keynote speaker and founder of GAMMA Digital & Beyond.

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