Organizational ADHD

 Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), more commonly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is a neurological condition that has a genetic component and can be aggravated by environmental and physical factors. The negative characteristics of ADD include a tendency to procrastinate and miss deadlines, impatience, and an inability to focus among other traits.

There is now a newly recognized neurological phenomenon, which is a cousin to ADD, called Attention Deficit Trait (ADT):

“Marked by distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience, ADT prevents managers from clarifying priorities, making smart decisions, and managing their time. This insidious condition turns otherwise talented performers into harried underachievers. And it’s reaching epidemic proportions.

ADT isn’t an illness or character defect. It’s our brain’s natural response to exploding demands on our time and attention. As data increasingly floods our brains, we lose our ability to solve problems creatively and handle the unknown. Creativity shrivels; mistakes multiply. Some sufferers eventually melt down.”

Edward M. Hallowell, MD

Overloaded Circuits, Harvard Business Review, January 2005

If ADT is growing at the personal level from factors at work, is it a stretch to think of organizations themselves as having ADHD? Have a look at the typical symptoms of ADHD and see if any fit:


We think this list characterizes a lot of the traits that organizations themselves are experiencing, and as such, could use help addressing.