Female worker with post its

Did you ever sit in a work meeting with someone whose brain appears to whirl at 100mph, leaping to understandings or creative solutions in an instant, piecing together ideas and concepts out of nowhere? You may just have encountered a gifted adult. Yep, corny as the name sounds, that’s a thing. 

Lots of people will have heard said that someone is a ‘gifted child’ - this may be positioned that they are advanced in age in reading, language, or comprehension, or maybe that ‘they have an old head on their shoulders’. You may see them make witty comments or observations, have good insight or being sensitive of people and life around them. What happens as those children grow up? Is it just that they are advanced for their age, and this evens out over time, or are they in fact a ‘gifted adult’. It is estimated that up to 5% of the population are gifted adults, so in an organisation of 1,500 people, approximately 75 of your workforce will be gifted. 

What is giftedness and how is it different from being advanced in age or development? In this lens, a gifted adult is not measured purely on metrics like IQ. Gifted adults can be recognised though high levels of perception and divergent thinking as well as integrated thinking – bringing together layers of complex thinking into new and novel thoughts. They may also ‘skip-think’, rapidly processing complex information in a way that does not appear step-by-step, which can be why others are often mystified as to how they quickly reached a conclusion or outcome. This can be due to the gifted brain having a more web-based processing rather than linear or incremental – imagine an active mindmap forming in your brain that links lots of random things together into a giant web, all at the same time, whilst also leaping around to random thoughts or memories to look for similarity or connection. In addition, gifted adults generally have a range of ‘overexcitabilities’ a term first coined by psychologist and psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski. These overexcitabilties describe a depth in perception, feeling, thought and reaction in various spaces, including psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional. This may be expressed in the workplace as physical energy and excitement, intense drive, and competition, need for intense intellectual challenge and stimulation, high levels of creativity and creative thinking and also strong values, a sense of social responsibility and high levels of empathy and emotional depth.  

Embracing gifted people into your organisation or team can bring a breadth of benefits, but it may also prove challenging and require you to work in different ways, causing you to reflect on your own leadership style and delivery. We’ll be sharing more on this intriguing topic through a series of blogs. We’ll explore how organisations can look to embrace gifted people through authentic leadership, balancing career challenges with risk of burnout and the links between gifted adults and neurodiversity. So, whether you secretly suspect you, or someone in your team, may be a gifted adult, or if you would like to learn more about embracing giftedness within your organisation to secure the broadest range of potential talent, then do stay tuned.  

For more information on how to support talent and neurodiversity within your organisation, please contact Sarah Reed, Associate Director for Workforce, EDI and Wellbeing on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Associate Director - Workforce, EDI and Wellbeing

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