Let’s start here: ALL UX and design work happens in a political environment. Meaning that there is never a time where personal or organizational interests aren’t influencing the work, one way or the other.

Even we, as designers or UXers, see our work, its value and its potential uses from a very specific — and often very defensive — point of view; that’s human nature. Our belief and our intent and our approach is both specific and subjective. The same goes for stakeholders or clients; there are reasons they want what they want, and those reasons aren’t always in alignment with ours, as you well know.

So everyone involved stands to gain or lose from certain outcomes, and because of that they’ll use information (and access to it) for political purposes. 

What does political really mean?

Now, before I lose you, let’s clearly define the term political: that there are competing interests at play here, each wrestling for their definition of what something means, how it should be used and for what purposes. 

Organizations in general can’t help but be political, because all product design activity is surrounded by multiple players from multiple departments, all of whom are fighting to make sure their concerns and points of view are heard and represented and addressed in the work. Anyone and everyone with a stake in the outcome is working to make sure that outcome meets their needs — personally, professionally, politically.

As such, it is impossible to design anything appropriately and effectively without also managing (and in some cases defusing) that competition. I know you know what I’m talking about.

So when you hear people say “all design is political,” this is what they mean. This is reality. And it’s also the single biggest challenge to positive project outcomes, to doing the right thing for users. And here’s the part no one ever talks about:

Dealing with that reality — navigating those competing interests and intents and personalities — can often take up 50% or more of everyone’s time and effort on any given project. 

And doing that effectively requires skills that none of us are ever explicitly taught, whether that’s at University or online.

It’s time to change that.

It’s become one of my primary goals as a teacher and coach to change that. It’s a huge part of the reason I founded the UX 365 Academy. Look, you can go just about anywhere online to learn more about UX and Design tools, processes and methods. There are a lot of very sharp people teaching those courses; you don’t need me retreading that ground. 

But what you DO need is all the stuff they don’t cover — the underlying, political and personal messiness inherent in the work we do every day. The 50% effort I’m talking about here that constantly derails and sabotages your efforts, that grinds you down and makes you question your belief in what you’re doing.

I am here to tell you that all of this can be overcome. That combat can be turned into collaboration. And before you shake your head, I’ve got 30 years of proof behind that claim. All you need are the tools to do so, which includes an understanding of what motivates those folks to act the way they do. 

You need to be able to have difficult conversations with adversarial or uncooperative stakeholders or team members, and turn them into understanding and agreement. 

You need to know how to talk and present and pitch so people will listen. 

You need to be able to speak the language of politics and business as naturally as you do the language of design and UX.

That’s what you’ll learn at the UX 365 Academy and that’s what will change your professional life for the better. 

Understand, this isn’t magic; I’m not omnipotent and I have no special powers. But I’ve done it, successfully, for a very long time. 

Which means that you can too.

I founded the UX 365 Academy to cover all the never-discussed situations, soft skills and situational knowledge and tools you need to succeed in your career, particularly when the road is rough.

Whether you’re trying to land a UX job or are fighting for legitimacy and respect once you’ve got it, I can help you tackle your toughest challenges and sharpen your skills. ​Check it out — and consider what a small investment in YOU can do for your career​.