With a university or college graduation rate of 5% or less for young ADHD adults, clearly today’s post-secondary institutions have a long way to go before successfully engaging the special minds of ADHD students.
With academic aspirations thwarted, many young ADHD adults go on to test the entrepreneurial waters. All too often, their forays into business end in failure as well.
This September 2014, in an effort to provide a new option, co-founders Tom Bergeron and Rick Fiery will launch InventiveLabs, a third option, in Beverly, MA.
“We’re both serial entrepreneurs,” says Bergeron. The founders combine their professional expertise with personal experience, having young family members with ADHD.
“We’d been talking about starting new businesses, and a business incubator, and we’ve been talking about kids [with ADHD and dyslexia]; Rick said, ‘Why don’t we just put the two together and form a center that takes bright, creative kids who have ADHD and dyslexia and show them the tools they need to take their creative ideas to become products?’” says Bergeron of the pair’s inspiration.
“Our big picture goal is changing the perception of ADHD.”
“A big picture goal when we first started thinking about this was having corporate America think differently about their workforce, specifically folks with ADHD and dyslexia. Our goal is changing the perception of ADHD and also changing the way that we work as a society to embrace what the strengths are.”
Doing just that, InventiveLabs will put hyperfocus, creativity, and love of deadlines – all classic ADHD traits – to work.
Practical, hands-on training will be combined with access to academic courses tailored and taught at the lab by a local community college on an as-needed basis. In InventiveLabs-speak, participants aren’t a class, they’re a team; they’re not students, they’re Inventives. In addition to accessing accredited courses, some Inventives may also receive accreditation based on life experiences and equivalency testing.
The initial applicants are based mostly in the northeast U.S., but inquiries have come from Australia, South Africa, Europe and Guatamala; some have degrees, some don’t. Bergeron says they’re looking for individuals who’ll complement each other for their first team of 16 Inventives as they launch later this year.
“We’re looking for a well-rounded, diverse team,” says Bergeron. This will include some with a specific passion in one area, but also some who are passionate about multiple things, as many with ADHD are.
In addition to facilitators Bergeron and Fiery, a third full-time facilitator will be on staff, as well as a part-time therapist, a part-time life coach, and a wide variety of mentors who’ve offered to come and share their expertise. “People like the concept and want to help out; especially folks who’ve had success,” says Bergeron. Mentors will address a variety of topics, from making presentations to sales training to marketing. Mentor entrepreneurs who have ADHD themselves will share what’s worked for them to be successful.
Tailored to those with ADHD, “People will have the flexibility to come in when they want with the expectation that they’ll be there in the afternoon at the lab,” says Bergeron. Each weekday will focus on different aspects of the program: Mondays for team building and project updates; Tuesdays for group work; Wednesdays and Thursdays for field trips (research, team building, etc.) and for one-on-one time with facilitators for goal-setting and strategizing. Friday is presentation day, where Inventives present what they’ve worked on, their progress, what they didn’t accomplish, and how they’re going to address that in the following week.
“We feel if they don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish each week it’s going to spiral out of control pretty quickly,” says Bergeron.
While some Inventives will leave with their own business, some might end up joining a bigger company or licencing out new technology. Some may pursue further education once they’ve found and honed their passion. Part of the life coach’s role will be to make sure that Inventives understand the corporate world’s expectations, including the skillsets required, and the pluses and minuses, before leaving the InventiveLabs program.
Inventives will be guided through a one or two-year program, including everything from deciding on what business or project to pursue, innovation, finding funding sources, execution, evaluation, and launch.