How many times have you sat in a meeting where a ‘leader’ says something ridiculous? 

Proposes a plan of action that has no chance of working unless you suddenly develop the power to bend time and space? 

Or something that’s dishonest, that takes advantage of the product’s users? 

Or that’s sexist

Or racist

Or just flat-out rude and disrespectful?

Everyone shifts uncomfortably in their seats. Eyes dart sideways around the room. But no one says anything. You sit silent, with your hands folded, because you’re afraid that if you open your mouth, they’re all gonna laugh at you. Everyone will think s/he just doesn’t get it.

Here’s what you need to understand: you — and every other silent worrier in the room thinking the same thing — DO get it. You get it because you’re not just blindly accepting what’s being passed around. You’re not assuming you know everything there is to know about the topic at hand. You’re not hiding behind your job title or your corner office or your tenure. 

You’re not pretending to have all the answers, which is what UX and Design are all about: assuming nothing and asking questions.

But both things require courage, and what you will find the longer you’re out in the working world is that courage is in unbelievably short supply. And you’ll also learn that what passes for courage is actually insecurity gone wild.

Opposition comes from fear.

When your bosses (or their bosses) are opposed to doing user research, it’s partly because they’re really, really scared of what that research might show them. That it will confirm the fears they already have, confirm the mistakes that they already know are being made. Confirm that customers have reached the apex of fed up and are done waiting for the company to do the right thing. All of which may, unfortunately, require that they do something about it.

The research results will ask something of them they’d prefer to avoid: bucking the trend and speaking up. So you get resistance in the form of “sorry, no time, no budget, that’s a nice-to-have.” Urgency trumps importance.

But none of that is the real reason they’re stonewalling. The real reason is a hell of a lot simpler; it’s because when they speak up at the next Knights of the Executive Round TableTM board meeting and advocate an unpopular approach…They’ll be shut down.

Criticized. Laughed at.

See, our reluctance to ask dumb questions isn’t just about not wanting to hear the answers — it’s about not wanting to be hurt. It’s about our fear of being vulnerable, of taking off the armor and getting real.

You can overcome that fear — yours and theirs.

That’s one of the main reasons I started the UX 365 Academy — because all the things I just talked about are never part of the core curriculum UXers and Designers learn. Whether that learning takes place at a University or an online bootcamp, no one talks about all of this messy stuff. The soft skills you must possess in order to rise above all the personal and political minefields that are part and parcel of working for an organization — any organization, even the ‘good’ ones.

Your talent and knowledge and expertise will carry you a long way, for sure. But what will actually dictate your success is your willingness and ability to have difficult conversations. 

Often with difficult people

Your real superpower is your ability to remain calm in the face of every storm, to build trust at times when everyone else is in self-preservation mode and running for the lifeboats.

So that’s much of what you’ll learn at my UX 365 Academy are these very skills. Because I know how it feels to be frustrated and blocked and stressed — and I also know it absolutely does not have to be that way.