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Ep. #32 The Neurodiversity Advantage : A Business Case for Inclusive Change, with Natalie Phillips-Mason

adhd leadership neurodiversity podcast classroom 5.0 Mar 20, 2024


Today's shopping malls work hard to grab our attention. But in their attempts to 'delight' our senses with all their bells and whistles, are today's retail giants missing the mark?

On podcast Classroom 5.0 (listen herethis week's guest  Natalie Phillips-Mason shares findings that suggest they might be, as we dive into her latest research in collaboration with Nature and Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

With conversations surrounding neurodiversity gaining greater awareness and traction, many of you tell me that in your attempts to be inclusive, you can find yourself feeling stopped in your tracks by worries around what to say and do.

I get it. So can I.

Even with my own lived experience of navigating ADHD, parenting neurodivergent teens and working professionally in this space, it feels like the conversation is moving so fast! So I asked Natalie to offer up her perspectives on some of the 'hard questions' around neurodiversity for us.

Let’s just say that it’s not often I’ll engage in toilet talk on the podcast. But given the week it is, I let my own neuro-spicy flair and #nofilter Mazz rip a little in this conversation, and Natalie’s cubicle conversation responses did not disappoint.

In fact, I think there was a part of Natalie that was revelling in the delights and surprises of our off script moments… 

But that said, she's not new to the impulsive conversation hiccups that can come with the unfiltered fun of ADHD .

A member of a mixed neurotype family of her own, Natalie founded Inclusive Change, a pioneering change management consultancy working with leaders and their teams to embrace non-apparent differences.

And if you haven't heard that term before, grab a pen and paper. Thanks to this conversation, I’ve got a pocketful of new neuroinclusive terms to add to my vernacular, which I’m incredibly grateful for, and I know you will be too.

In time for Neurodiversity Celebration Week, Natalie joins us with humour and deep, research backed insights, to shed light on the challenges and joys neurodivergent individuals navigate in everyday situations, including those we encounter when shopping.

"I'm doing a lot of work with the ARA, the Australian Retailers Association at the moment. And for the retail sector, it is just as important for them to be getting people into store for a whole lot of reasons. But also the other side of that coin is that retail employs a significant number of people in our society. A significant number of those people will be neurodivergent. 

So what about the experience of your neurodivergent employees if you're employing in retail? What about the experience of our young people who will be entering the workforce? Like, it can't be a one dimensional conversation. So I think for that reason, it makes a lot of sense for retailers who, I think they employ like 10% of the population. Like that is a significant number of people that they employ.

There's no downside to having this conversation. But if we start with the customer, then inevitably we'll end up reflecting back on our employee experience as well. And I think that's so important."

~ Natalie Phillips-Mason

This episode sheds light on the significance of recognising, supporting and celebrating non-apparent differences and invisible disabilities at work, in schools and in our communities, and the importance of language and communication in fostering inclusion.

We take a sneak peek into the findings that emerged from her latest research piece, and explore what the data might teach us in terms of how we can design more joyful and inclusive community and retail experiences. 

Think this episode only relates to neurodivergent folk? Think again! Natalie’s research and our conversation that follows demonstrates why and how what works well in supporting our minority neurotypes turns out to also be helpful for all. 

We discuss:

  • The importance of recognising and celebrating non-apparent differences and invisible disabilities as we build inclusive environments that support neurodiversity in education, workplaces and our community more broadly
  • What's changed and evolved in the corporate sector in relation to how we build cultures that support, engage and leverage the potential of our people. 

  • How COVID has accelerated a shift towards a greater focus on the whole person in the workplace
  • How companies are responding to the Code of Practice for Managing psychosocial hazards at work (‘the Code’), developed by SafeWork NSW 
  • The challenges neurodivergent people face when navigating shopping and retail environments, and the similar desires for simplicity expressed by neurotypical consumers

  • The opportunity and business advantage for organisations who not only consider how to mitigate sensory overwhelm, but maximise sensory joy in their customer experience design 

  • The cubicle conversation that led to unpacking the benefits of The Hidden Disability Sunflower program, and a future that incorporates transparency around staff training around neurodiversity

  • The longest list of inspiring change activists, working to build a neuro-inclusive future of learning, work and leadership for all 



And as promised, her are the links to the podcast episodes I shared my own lived experience and clinical insights as guest:

  • Listen here  to episode 116 of The Wellbeing Podcast with Meg Durham, 'Neurodivergent Adults and Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace'. In it, we discuss how neurodivergence impacts wellbeing, the role of inclusive environments, and the unique challenges faced by neurodivergent adults working in schools, plus some of my favourite neuro-affirming practices!
  • For a deep dive into neurodiversity at work, and the research that unpacks the conditions that support psychological safety for neurodivergent people, check out my conversation with Nicole Turnbull of Neon Shed over on her podcast, 'Under The Rug at Work' - Find it on YouTube hereApple Podcasts here and Spotify here

Natalie shared so many incredible contributors to support your future reading and celebration of Neurodiversity!  In addition to reading the full report with research findings mentioned in this episode (which you can download here) be sure to check out some of the incredible Change Champions discussed in this conversation today! 

  • Learn more about Yellow Ladybugs, an Australian non-government organisation, dedicated to the happiness, success and celebration of autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals here
  • Learn about the impact Elizabeth Bonker is creating to gain communication access to all non-speaking autistic people here
  • Discover the work of Dan Harris and his initiative, Neurodiversity in Business here
  • Access Professor Amanda Kirby's work here
  • And learn from Theo Smith on his youtube channel here and via his initiative Neurodiveristy and Work here 
  • Read more about Temple Grandin here 
  • Read 'Untypical: How the World Isn't Built for Autistic People and What We Should All Do About It', by Pete Wharmby here 
  • Read 'UNMASKED: The Ultimate Guide to ADHD, Autism and Neurodivergence' by Ellie Middleton here
  • Read "The Canary Code: A Guide to Neurodiversity, Dignity, and Intersectional Belonging at Work" by  Ludmila N. Praslova here
  • Read 'Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity' by Steve Silberman here
  • Read 'Reframing Autism: The Promise of Acceptance' by Mr Tony Rice here
  • Discover Kate Halpin and her organisation, Employ for Ability here, providing organisations with clear and focused solutions to support their efforts to attract, support and retain neurodivergent talent
  • Meet Cherie Clonan and explore her fun and funky digital media and marketing company, the Digital Picnic here
  • Learn from Lived Experience educator, Sonny Jane Wise here
  • Meet Chloe Hayden and read her book 'Different Not Less' via her website here



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Thanks for tuning into another episode of Classroom 5.0, and helping to imagine alive the future of learning, work and leadership.  



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