The interview lasts around 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute Q&A. If you don’t have time to watch the full video, you can use the transcript and timestamps below to identify the parts you’re most interested in.


00:00 Joe Natoli’s background
01:39 UX across cultures
03:41 Clean theory versus messy reality
07:30 Dealing with backlogs
10:46 UX and Agile
13:58 Questioning processes
16:32 Speaking up about problems
21:22 Everything starts with why
23:37 Avoiding jargon
25:37 Over-reliance on tools, software, etc.
29:04 Working smarter in 15 minutes
31:58 Learning from failure
36:10 Imposter syndrome
40:44 Feel the fear and practice resilience
45:34 Recommended resources
48:03 Q&A session
1:10:12 Joe Natoli at UX Live in London


Keep up with Joe on Twitter

Transcript with timestamps

00:00 Joe Natoli’s background

Sandro: So on to you, Joe. So you will be speaking at UX Live, and before we get to that, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and what are you doing?

Joe Natoli: Who are you? What are you doing here?

Sandro: Yes.

Joe Natoli: First and foremost, I’m UX consultant. I’ve been working in design in UX for nearly three decades. This is my 29th year of doing this, which every time I say that out loud, it makes me feel very old. It’s been a wild ride. I went from doing a lot of tactical work, of course I worked for design firms and ad agencies. I started my own business in 1998, because I was either bold or dumb enough to decide I wanted to have my own experience design firms, is what we called it the time. What happened was I saw the work of Alan Cooper, and my head exploded. I thought, “Okay, interaction experience.” Then of course I read Don Norman and all that stuff, and it just took off from there.

Joe Natoli: I ran that company for about 10 years. I sold it, hung out for a few years trying to help the company that bought it, established UX. Learned that they didn’t want to, went back to independent consulting and I’ve been doing that ever since. I spend my time speaking obviously, writing and recording videos, doing online courses. I’ve got about 150,000 students at this point, which makes me feel incredibly, incredibly fortunate. I’m lucky enough to have clients all over the world. So I’m a very fortunate human being, is the way I’ve described myself.

01:39 UX across cultures

Sandro: Well that’s good. So you’re traveling a lot. You see a lot of different teams and different companies and different cultures?

Joe Natoli: Yes.

Sandro: So how does that vary? How does the UX culture vary country by country? Is that a thing culture by culture, or how would you describe the differences if you travel quite a bit?

Joe Natoli: I’ll tell you what’s interesting is that there’s actually more commonality than difference. A huge commonality is that, and it’s the reason I do what I do. My consulting work has morphed into not only helping teams within the product UX issues, it’s a lot about helping them navigate day to day challenges. A lot of that is internal. It’s working with stakeholders, it’s working with other team members, it’s working with executives, middle managers, project managers, product owners. So the commonality is that everybody is struggling in a way that all this stuff that they’ve been trained to believe works. It looks great on paper. We read all these articles, we see videos, we read books, we take courses, and it all sounds great.

Joe Natoli: There’s this UX process, right? Lean, Agile, people are talking about Safe now, all sorts of things and it looks and sounds great. Inside the walls of organization, and I’ve found this everywhere I’ve gone, even some of the biggest organizations in the world who we think have it all figured out, it does not work the way it works on paper. There are a lot of obstacles.

Sandro: I actually like that. You have this sentence that I read somewhere, what works in the messy reality is very different from what works in these blog posts and stuff that people write online. Can you talk a bit about that? I mean how do you help your students or your audience in general to navigate the messy reality, and what’s the difference? Maybe first, what’s the difference between a messy reality and what you read in all these best practices online, and what you should do versus what’s-

03:41 Clean theory versus messy reality

Joe Natoli: Well, the big difference is human beings. The minute you throw humans into the mix, we’re messy. We’re emotional, we’re motivated by all sorts of things. Every person in every position in every part of an organization is motivated by different things intrinsically, personally, politically. That’s who we are. If we have a bad morning, if I got a flat tire on what a work that colors my entire day. So you can have all the great processes in the world, but the minute you throw five, 10, 20, 30, and 40 in some cases, human beings into the mix, things get very messy very fast because we’re idiosyncratic, we’re unpredictable. A lot of the things that prevent products from being great, it’s never because people don’t have enough talent or enough ability or enough knowledge or enough skill. It’s almost always because there are opposing ideas about what constitutes success.

Joe Natoli: Some of those are intensely personal. I talk about this a lot and I’m going to talk about it in London. A lot of these things come from fear. Come from uncertainty, come from how is all that stuff you’re proposing to do, all that stuff on this chart you’re showing me, this process, this customer journey process or whatever it is. How’s it going to get me what I want? How’s it going to take this weight off my shoulders that I’m carrying around with me 24 hours a day? Those are the things that show up. Again, that’s messy. So the first thing I tell teams to do is number one, abandon all these things you think you’re going to do. All right, take a step back. Forget about step one, phase or phase one, phase two, phase three. Forget about what we’re going to do in this sprint, next sprint. Just take a step back for a second. What’s the wall you’re running into, and what’s the cause of it? Because until you get to that, you can sprint plan until you are dead.

Sandro: Can you make an example for us?

Joe Natoli: Nothing is going to change.

Sandro: What would be a wall that people face often?

Joe Natoli: Well, the first thing that came to mind, and I don’t know if this is a good answer to your question, but I talked to an organization, very large organizations about this was maybe two months ago. They’re describing the fact that they’re releasing every week. They’re releasing every week and they feel like they’re behind. They’re perpetually behind the can’t catch up, stakeholders are upset because all these promised features and functionality are not happening, and yet they’re releasing every week. I’m like, “Okay, something really weird is going on here.” So I’m thinking about it and I said, “Out of curiosity, how much is in your backlog right now?” They said, “200 items.” I said, “How often do items get added to that 200?” They said every week. Okay, so what this tells me immediately is you’re doing a lot of work, right? Everybody’s overworked. They’re working like 14-hour days, they’re working on the wrong things.

Joe Natoli: They’re pushing out stuff every week that does not matter. Somewhere in that list of 200 things, number one, most of that is probably unimportant if it keeps getting shifted back. Number two, they’re just doing work to do work and people keep asking for stuff. So what I talked to them about is how they validate these decisions, and for them it went back to user stories, which is something I’ve talked about a lot. I said, “Well, you have to start validating this stuff and figure out why it matters.” If you can’t connect user needs to do this because it’s going to help them in this way and it’s going to help us in this way. It’s going to help the company. It’s cost money made money saved. If you can’t attach that statement to anything on that list, it waits. Period. Right now. I don’t care what else you’re doing, do that.

Sandro: Yeah. Do you have-

Joe Natoli: Okay, so there’s an example.

07:30 Dealing with backlogs

Sandro: Do you have some… I know, I mean at least in my experience on the teams I’ve seen, this is a very common problem. This ever-growing backlog. If I am faced with this situation today, what can I do to actually prioritize? What can I do? I mean, you said attach user stories to it. Is there any other, so I am sitting in front of Asana, and I see these huge backlogs. What can I do?

Joe Natoli: I think, and again, I don’t think this is… It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. It’s a lot about asking questions. It’s about figuring out whether those things, I’m going to say this this way, deserve to live or not. Are they worth doing? There’s no possible way I’m going to tell you right now, as long as I’ve been doing this as many different types of projects and products that I have seen, there is no way that a backlog that’s beyond half a dozen items, there’s no way it’s all valid. I’ve never seen that be true one time in 20 plus years. For as long as Agile has been a thing, let’s say. I’ve never seen that be true, ever. There’s a lot of garbage and then there’s anywhere from three to six things that are really tremendously important. So you have to qualify them. You have to say to the powers that be the people who are making that list if it’s not you, you have to say why is this important? What does that get you?

Joe Natoli: Notice I didn’t say, what does that get the company? What does it get you? If we do this in two weeks or three weeks or four weeks or whatever it is and it launches, what does it get you? What happens as a consequence of not doing it? Those are the questions you have to ask, because it makes that person nine times out of 10. Even if they’re difficult to work with, here’s what I found. It makes them step back and think, “Okay, well that really doesn’t get me any closer to what I really need here.” Self-interest trumps best practice every day of the week, and a lot of what winds up on these lists, these to-do lists and the asks and the requests and the orders that we get, they’re personally motivated. They’re not what we think they are and we take this as fact, and all it takes a lot of times is just asking some questions in a very diplomatic, very polite way.

Joe Natoli: You don’t go say, “Well, this is absolutely wrong and this is terrible UX, and this is going to do this and it goes against everything.” You can’t have that conversation. You got to ask that person why that’s there in the first place, and what they think it’s going to gain them by doing it.

Sandro: Okay, by the way, because I didn’t mention it before, I’m asking questions now, but you can ask questions all the way through our conversations and there is a Q&A tab on the top. You can just ask your questions and we’ll get to them in the Q&A part at the end. So basically prioritization respectively, like a large backlog is one issue that you’re seeing. Are there are others that come to mind that you see oftentimes that teams are struggling with?

10:46 UX and Agile

Joe Natoli: Sure. I mean there are any number of things. There’s the classic I need this yesterday. I’m going to give you this laundry list of work, and it all has to be done by this date. There are instances where UXers and developers are at odds simply because they think they’re at odds. There’s situations in Agile in particular. The running joke to me and no one else thinks it’s a joke, but I do, is this whole idea when integration with UX and Agile came about. This has been a thing for a long time in that designers or UXers have to be two weeks ahead of development. This is the most ridiculous thing ever proposed. All right, and I’m saying that out loud and I don’t care how anybody takes it. It never works. It does not ever work. It turns Agile into waterfall. Somebody is waiting on either end for work.

Joe Natoli: So companies come to me all the time, they say, “This integration is not working.” Everybody’s mad. Nobody likes each other. Nobody is giving each other what they need, and we’re slower as a result. What I say is if it’s slow, you’re doing it wrong. Put those people, get a designer, a UXer and a developer and put them side by side all day, every day. I read something a while ago by Brad Frost where he said, “Look, put everyone everywhere.” I thought that was the greatest thing I ever heard, because it’s what I preach. Forget all this again, it’s rigid attachment to process. It should be done this way based on what? If it’s not working, it obviously shouldn’t be done that way. It’s like pair programming. Pair programming is a great idea. It’s a fantastic idea. Why aren’t we doing the same thing with design or UX? Okay, and tackle smaller pieces as well. That’s the other thing. Take a small chunk, iterate the hell out of it really quickly and push it out. In prototype form.

Sandro: Do you see, let’s say the companies that are doing it well, what are some of the processes or I guess maybe the opposite of process, freedoms they give to their teams? What are the differences actually?

Joe Natoli: There’s a couple of parts of that. I mean part of it is certainly autonomy, where the promise of Agile and Lean and everything else the idea of self-organizing teams, self-governing teams. When that happens, when product owners are playing the role of guiding and being there as a backstop and making sure that everybody has what they need, but basically allowing the teams to make the decisions about what happens and why, and being a check of course to validate those things from the business side, but autonomy is a big part of it. You’re letting people say, “Look, here’s the reality that we live in. We’re going to make these decisions based on this reality. Here’s what we know we can get done. Here’s what we think really matters most. Here’s what we think we’re going to gain from that.” The minute somebody divorced from the process is making those decisions, you have trouble. So that’s the first thing.

13:58 Questioning processes

Joe Natoli: The second thing is it’s they obviously have a process that they follow. They obviously have procedures. They have tools that they use. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but they are also willing to abandon that path the minute it looks like it’s not working. If this isn’t happening, we’ve been doing this for four weeks and we’re stuck repeatedly. Something has to change. What is it? I talked to a team a week and a half ago that abandoned stand up meetings. 20 people, which ideally a stand-up meeting is supposed to be quick, right? Like 15 minutes. Their standing meetings were an hour and a half. Hour and a half and nobody’s doing anything, but just reporting on what they’re doing. If you’re using project management software of any kind, that stuff is all there. We don’t all need to stand in a circle to figure that out.

Joe Natoli: So if the conversation is happening, I told them this, “If a conversation is happening and nobody’s helping each other, nobody’s jumping in and say, okay, well I can help you with this. You’re stuck there. After this meeting let’s…” There is no action coming out of this meeting. So they just quit. They just quit doing it altogether, and it made a massive difference in their productivity. They’re just talking to each other more during an eight hour a day more often.

Sandro: So how does a decision like that come about, because in most organizations maybe some people have a hunch that probably they shouldn’t do their stand up for one and a half hours, but then what’s the difference in an organization where somebody can actually zoom out and say like, “Hey, do we still need to do this?” A week or two weeks after it’s actually, okay, no, we’re not going to do it anymore. How do companies go about that, or how do employees go about that? How do we ignite change like that?

Joe Natoli: That varies widely as well. There are different flavors of it. Sometimes it’s a matter of somebody on the team taking it, in other words, if the team doesn’t have the authority to make that decision, you have to go to somebody else. You have to go to a product owner, you have to go to whoever and make the case. Say, “Look, we’re doing this and it sucks, and it’s not getting us what we want. It’s obvious that you’re frustrated. We’re frustrated. The CEO is frustrated. Everybody else, nobody’s getting what they want here. We really want to try something different for at least just for the next two weeks.”

16:32 Speaking up about problems

Sandro: So it’s seeking these honest conversations.

Joe Natoli: Yeah, but somebody has to have the courage to speak up and say that, and that’s not an easy thing. I fully recognize that it is not an easy thing, especially in an organization that’s very command and control center. Again, you have to communicate to that person, whoever needs to hear it, that this is not getting you what you want. That’s how they need to hear it, because until they hear it that way, you’re going to get this they’re just disgruntled employees, or they’re pushing back or they want to gold plate everything or whatever it is. You can hear any variation of those things. You have to be willing to be the odd man out in the room and say something that’s unpopular. It’s what it takes.

Sandro: Also, I find there are ways to actually say it in a way where you’re not attacking anyone-

Joe Natoli: Of course. Yeah, yeah, you have to. I say this all the time. You have to be calm. Your demeanor has to be calm. You have to be even killed. You need to keep emotion out of the conversation completely.

Sandro: Stick to the facts.

Joe Natoli: That’s right. The minute you lose your temper, the minute you become emotional, the minute you say this thing that you’re telling us to do, you cannot go there. I always say you have to be calm in the face of every storm. No matter how you feel inside, you’ve got to keep, like you just said, you’ve got to stick to the facts. You got to stick to what’s happening and say, “Look, we’d really like to try something else.” The minute you lose your temper, you’re done.

Sandro: That’s the other thing, right? What I sometimes see inside companies is there’s always a lot of problems, but if you come with an actual solution that is thought out and actually makes sense so at least to try, that also helps. Make a request with a thought-out solution as well in the end probably.

Joe Natoli: Yeah. Nobody, you can’t just go and say, “This shit is not working. It’s a mess, that’s it.” You can’t just complain. I was on a podcast a couple of months ago and that was my big thing. Stop complaining, do something.

Sandro: Part of the solution.

Joe Natoli: Come with a suggestion. Come with let’s… We were talking to the team. Maybe we’ll try this, this and this. Come with something, but don’t just come with a complaint. No one cares.

Sandro: Yeah. I like this don’t be a part of the problem, be part of the solution. So we talked about the product backlog, and then we talked about maybe some daily processes. Are there some other things where there are red flags that you see?

Joe Natoli: The biggest one is what I keep coming back to is that nobody questions this work to the degree that it should be. There’s a lot of order taking that happens, and I think it happens for a couple of reasons. Number one, because everybody is overloaded. They have their heads down just trying to get done what’s in front of them. There isn’t a whole lot of time to zoom out and say, “All right, wait a minute. This is worth doing.” The other thing is there’s this underlying assumption I see all the time that if you’re doing UX Design work in particular, that it has to take this amount of time. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen UX folks or designers throw up their hands and say, “Well, we can’t do anything. We can’t do anything.”Then I say, “Why can’t you do anything?” Well, because we need two weeks of user research and they just absolutely will not agree to it. I say, “Okay, will they agree to eight hours?” I get blank stares.

Joe Natoli: Just because you’re not getting exactly what you asked for, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Often the ask is too big to begin with, because here’s what happens. If you ask for eight hours, you say, “I just want eight hours to do some research.” Whatever that looks like, whether it’s actually interfacing with users or not, I don’t care. If you asked for eight hours and you get it, there’s a really solid chance that you’ll uncover something within that time that in a lot of cases will buy you more time. When you bring it to people, when you bring that problem, you’ve uncovered to people they go, “Wow, okay. We had no idea that was happening.” I’ve seen that more times than I can count. If your ask is like this, it’s an instant no. Everybody’s stressed. Everybody’s busy. Project managers in particular have an eye on schedule budgets, schedule budget, schedule budget. Why? Because there’s a sword hanging over their heads about meeting those goals. It’s the only thing they care about, because they’re disposed to.

21:22 Everything starts with why

Sandro: On the top of your head, what are some good questions to zoom out? What are some questions I can ask myself if something’s going the wrong way, or whether it’s a project or in general how the team works. What kind of questions can I ask myself?

Joe Natoli: Everything starts with why. Why is this happening? You start and you make a list. Here are all the screwed up things that are going on right here. Seriously, I mean it isn’t any more complicated than that. Here’s what’s happening, and you look at each one of those things number one, and you look at it a couple of ways. Number one, for each thing, how bad is this and how often is it happen? All right, it’s a combination. It’s really bad, it’s screwing up our timelines. We’re delivering things that are buggy and don’t work well or we’re absolutely not delivering half of what we promise, whatever it is. That happens consistently week after week, after week, after week. That’s something you need to address. The next thing you ask is why is that happening? Just like I talk about this in a talk, just like when you interrogate a problem, you use Toyota’s version of the five whys. You ask why at least five times.

Joe Natoli: This is the same thing, because you have to get to the root cause of why that’s going on. Why is there so much miscommunication? Why? When UX designer, UI designer does something a certain way and then a week later when we look at the prototype or the build in dev, it looks completely different. Why is there this gulf in understanding, or why when we finally show something to stakeholders, do they look at it and go, “Okay, that’s not what I imagined when I wrote the requirements.” Why is that happening? Where’s that gap coming from? What’s causing it? It’s not enough to address the fact that there’s a disconnect. You’ve got to figure out what the root cause is. Sometimes the root cause is really poor communication. I talk a lot about jargon and terminology for example. The fact that a lot of the things that are second nature to us and every person, every profession is guilty of this, right?

23:37 Avoiding jargon

Joe Natoli: When you talk about your own work, you talk about it in a way that’s natural to you, and you assume everybody knows what you’re talking about. A lot of times in meetings, people aren’t willing to really admit that they don’t know what you’re talking about. So you walk out of a session, you think you have agreement and in reality you have nothing of the sort.

Sandro: Yeah, totally. It’s interesting because Buzz Pearce from Skyscanner who was on our first episode this season. He mentioned that what he tries to do in his team is to instill the notion that stakeholders, whatever level are to be treated just like the user itself as well.

Joe Natoli: Amen.

Sandro: I really-

Joe Natoli: Amen. It’s absolutely true. I mean, I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s absolutely true. Those of you who’ve seen my rants on social media, I talk about that as well. It’s the same thing. These people matter every bit as much as the users matter.

Sandro: Yeah. You actually had one around terminology. In the UX, there’s all these terms and the people that are actually practicing it might care a lot about these terms and the differences between these terms, but the people you’re talking to, your managers or even the CEO, he doesn’t.

Joe Natoli: He doesn’t know and he doesn’t care. Okay, he doesn’t care. I say this all the time. I know all those big words. I don’t ever use them. I avoid saying the word when I’m with a client, I avoid saying the word UX if I can get away with it. All I’m talking about is what our problems are, what our opportunities are, what our goals are, what we’re trying to achieve and what we hope is going to happen after this two weeks is up, or two months or three months or two years or whatever it is. What are we gunning for here, and how are we going to get it?

25:37 Over-reliance on tools, software, etc.

Sandro: Yeah. You have this quote that I saw somewhere where you say great UX isn’t the result of what you do with your hands. It’s a result of how you use what’s between your ears. What would that be?

Joe Natoli: Amen.

Sandro: If you say that, I guess what’s the right mindset today to have? What are some traits that are helpful, or what are some… Yeah, what’s the right mindset?

Joe Natoli: I think it’s largely, it’s what it sounds like. I think that we have an unbelievable over-reliance on tools, on software, on patterns, on libraries, on templates, on technology in general. The first place that everybody looks to solve a problem is with an artifact of some type. A tool of some type, and it’s the wrong place to look. You can have a million tools at your disposal. If what you think about up here and how you apply that tool and what you apply it to and why you use something in a certain circumstance, if that part is unsound, you’re going to fail. Okay, I grew up building houses. I had contracting companies on both sides of my family. So I grew up working on cars and building houses. So here’s the thing, let’s take cars for an example.

Joe Natoli: When something is wrong with a car, it is almost never just one cause and it’s obvious. It’s always a matter of it’s probably one of these three things, but I don’t know which one it is. If you just pick up some tools and start doing things, you’re not necessarily going to figure out what it is, right? You have to think about what’s happening, why is it happening and which one of these things do I do first, and why do I do it first to eliminate the other variables? This is no different. Building a house is no different. There are any number of ways to put up a wall. These guys a lot of times use nail guns, and that’s common. Everybody uses these air-powered nail guns. The problem is if you’re not paying attention and you’re not careful and you’re using it for everything, including very soft or very brittle wood, you put nails through stuff and the wood splinters. Okay, so what happens is, later on, you have a problem, right?

Joe Natoli: That wall shakes or if you’re not paying attention to the distance between, if you do it by hand, if you think about where’s this nail going, what’s it going into. Let me make sure I’m hitting the right spot. If you mark things with a pencil quickly before you do it, for example, you get a different result. That’s all thinking. So tools are great, frameworks are great, pattern libraries are great, but we take these things out of the box and we apply them as if they’re going to save the world. They’re not. Responsive grids, all this automatic stuff. That’s like AI, AI is going to save to the world. Let me tell you something. AI is 10 years away from saving anything.

Sandro: I think it actually has to do with what you mentioned before. People are, they have too much work on their hands, too tight deadlines, and then there’s no time for thinking, right? There’s no time to actually sit down and come up with original solutions. So you are quickly Googling something to make it work.

29:04 Working smarter in 15 minutes

Joe Natoli: Yeah, but the other thing is, and I totally agree with that. I think everybody is overworked. I’ve never met a single person or a team that wasn’t grossly overworked. However, there’s always 15 minutes. Always, always, always before you do something to just, okay, quit for 15 minutes and think about it. All right. For me, I have to get a pen in my hand and I have to write on paper or I have to do it on a whiteboard, because I have to forcibly remove myself from this device in order to get past it. Sometimes it’s just, it could be five minutes, it could be 10 minutes, it could be whatever, but you have to do it. It changes the way you think, and what you find is that your knee jerk reaction changes.

Joe Natoli: You say, “Well, instead of doing that, one of the things I want to do instead is I’m going to do this smaller piece and let’s see what happens. I’m going to spend a half-hour doing this and let’s see where it goes. If it works, then I’ll keep going down that path.” There’s always time for that. The problem is we don’t allow ourselves, because we’re convinced we don’t have the time and it’s not true.

Sandro: It’s actually, I’ve seen one colleague not here at Testing Time, but at another company I really liked that. So before he sat down and actually did a task, he had a set of questions where he was basically asking himself, “Okay, so why am I doing this? What do I want to accomplish? Who’s the user and stuff like that.” So four or five things and he said in these 10 minutes, similar to what you described actually. In these 10 minutes, he clarified and saved so much work afterwards, and that’s part of his habit. So maybe that’s something that people can take up. I like that.

Joe Natoli: I totally agree with that. That 15 minutes can save you two weeks, and a tremendous amount of headache when you go down a path and it doesn’t work, or it’s difficult for development to pull off, or there’s this constant walls that you run into with technology or whatever the case may be, may save you an extraordinary amount of headache and stress.

Sandro: Also, because you have clarity now, because you actually played it through on some paper. You talked a bit about before on all the stuff you did. I would also like to know, I’m sure you have some failures that you had on your path as well, like-

Joe Natoli: No, never.

Sandro: All right. If you can mention one, let’s call it your favorite failure, what would that be and why? What have you learned from it?

31:58 Learning from failure

Joe Natoli: There’s the one that always comes back to me, and this was early on in my career and I always say that one of the best things that could ever happen to you in your career is to have your nose broken, and to have it happen more than once, because every time that happens, you learn from it. You realize it didn’t kill you. You realize you’re still here, you realize you get to go on. I like to say you either win or you learn. There’s no such thing as failure. So here’s what happened, I’ll try to condense this. I got my first big client, this was when I had just started my own firm. This is back in the late 90s I want to say. Very big deal, right? This is more money than I’d ever seen at any point in my life in a single contract. So I really want to impress these people because they’re hiring me. I’m the expert, right?

Joe Natoli: So immediately, I’m very much on a high horse. I’m very self-righteous and everything they’re showing me in my mind, I’m going, “It’s terrible, so bad. It’s horrible. What the heck?” I’m like, so I’m going to teach these people, right? So I spent two weeks, it was about two weeks I think, writing up this proposal in tremendous detail. This is like a 40-page proposal and I’m just picking apart everything, and I’m going in and it all feels in like yeah, they’re going to think, and part of this in my mind if I’m honest at this point in my life, part of this is I’m saying to myself, “This is really going to impress them. They’re going to really be impressed.”

Joe Natoli: So I give it to them, I go to the presentation and there are board members in the room, high powered executives in the room who have big bets riding on this kid. I do my thing and I’m going and I’m going, I’m going and I’m watching the faces in the room and the faces in the room are like this, and like this. I-

Sandro: A great feeling.

Joe Natoli: Yeah, it’s fantastic. It does wonders for your self-esteem. I’m sweating, I’m hot and I’m dying. I am literally, I can feel myself dying. So finally, I shut up and one of the guys on the board goes, “There is not one piece of what you just talked about that has anything to do with what we do, or what our goals are as an organization.” I went wow, wow. Here’s the thing. He was right, because here’s what I didn’t do. I was very self-righteous and I was very quick to point out all my expertise, and I was very quick to point out everything that was wrong and everything that they were screwing up. I did not once ask any of those people anything substantive about why they did what they did, why people came to them, why they had a successful business for 20 years. Why they were gaining ground in certain markets, what struggles they were dealing with, what they expected to accomplish. At the end of this, it was about me.

Joe Natoli: I made it all about me and not about them. Okay, so I had a fall on my sword and all I can do is apologize. There was a lot of digging that should’ve been done here, and I did not do it and I lost the money. I mean, I lost the contract. They fired me and it was brutal. I lived with that for weeks afterwards, probably months afterwards if I’m being honest. It was crabs crushed, but I never made that mistake again. I never made that mistake again. Never.

Sandro: How did you say before, everything is either-

Joe Natoli: You win or you learn.

Sandro: You win or you learn, I like that.

Joe Natoli: That’s right, and I learned.

Sandro: You learned. Yes, the hard way though, but that’s good. So did you encounter that as an issue across the board in your consulting afterwards, that the ego comes in the way often in the UX field, or is that-

36:10 Imposter syndrome

Joe Natoli: Yeah, here’s the other thing, right? People ask me a lot about imposter syndrome. I get asked that question a lot, and here’s what I think. I think everybody has it. I have it, had it my entire life and it doesn’t get better as you get older. It’s always there to some degree. The difference in youth, okay for me is that I was wildly insecure. I was, for whatever reason, it’s a weird combination of things, right? I was brave enough to start my own company, and I started other things as well. Like I started a couple magazines, a book publishing company, I had a record label for a while. So in one respect, I was just not fearless, but I was totally willing to dive into all of these things. At the same time, I was wildly insecure and filled with self-doubt.

Joe Natoli: So there was this impetus to prove my worth at every conceivable opportunity. To be like I know what I’m talking about, and that’s what all this stuff is. You’re trying to convince other people that you know what you’re doing and while you’re doing that, you’re not paying attention to the situation. You’re not paying attention to what really needs to be done. So did I struggle with that afterwards? Yes. I never erred on the side of having it be all about me after that instance, but it’s something I recognize in myself and it’s something I consciously started to try to counteract. To check that tendency to want to preach and say, “Well, wait a minute, be quiet. Listen, listen more than you talk. Especially in prospect meetings.”

Joe Natoli: I got into the habit of taking a ton of notes, recording things so I could listen to it later. What are people actually saying? In some cases you’re reading between the lines, right? What’s really happening here, and then asking more questions.

Sandro: That’s a problem, right?

Joe Natoli: I found that the more questions I asked even in the prospecting stage, when people are thinking about hiring me, if I treated every conversation like a working session, like we’re working to figure out what’s really going on here, the more successful I got. The better clients I got, the more longterm work I got, the less I had to worry about money. I mean lots of things came from that, and it really is all about moving yourself out of the way and being willing to be wrong, being willing to learn.

Sandro: What I felt as well is whenever you ask questions, people see that you are actually interested.

Joe Natoli: You care.

Sandro: If you ask an intelligent question in terms of you can only ask a good question if you really know what they’re talking about, or at least you know what you don’t know yet. If you are coming out with you already know everything and totally, I think that’s, how do you call this? The arrogance of youth. A lot of people have that in the beginning. You think you know everything until you realize that you don’t know anything.

Joe Natoli: I think where that comes from is fear. It’s fear that you don’t know everything. So you’re overcompensating, trying to convince everybody that you do. Just like you get asked in plenty of circumstances. From your day-to-day work, you will constantly be asked for things or to weigh in on things or to propose solutions to things where you don’t know enough about the issue or the solution in the first place, and you will be very tempted to give an answer. The best thing to do is to say, “Look, we’ve only been talking for three minutes. I don’t know nearly enough to give you an opinion on that.” We need to learn more, and it’s the same with prospective clients.

Joe Natoli: It’s the same with people inside your organization, on your own team, someone in management who’s asking you how are we going to do this, this, this, this, this. If the answer is, I don’t know yet, that’s what you say. You have to be honest about that, because doing otherwise will paint you into a corner very, very quickly.

Sandro: Yeah, because people take what you said in the moment then as, okay, this person said, right?

Joe Natoli: Exactly, and that’s who you are from that point forward.

Sandro: Exactly.

Joe Natoli: So and so said this was going to work.

Sandro: So it’s also here about courage, to actually say I don’t know because it’s okay to not know.

Joe Natoli: Yes.

Sandro: Well it’s already 45 minutes. We breezed through that, but let me ask you a few questions before we go to the audience questions.

Joe Natoli: Sure.

40:44 Feel the fear and practice resilience

Sandro: If you would have to say of everything that we talked about in the last 45 minutes or maybe even we can expand that to the stuff that you teach, what is one thing that people should take away that will have a big impact on their professional lives, maybe even their private lives? Something that you saw that is an inhibitor in many individuals in the workplace.

Joe Natoli: I think there’s two things and they’re the two things I come back to quite often. Number one, I think everybody in every position, you have to let go of this idea that you have to be fearless. There’s no such thing. You are never going to be 100% confident. There is never going to be a right time to do whatever. The planets are not going to align for you, and you’re suddenly going to feel like, “Okay, now’s the time when I do my thing.” All the people I’ve met who are ridiculously successful, even in other fields, I’ve had the privilege of meeting musicians, actors, people in very high positions. All of them will tell you that at every point, every time they did something that was really important to their growth, to their career, they were feeling more fear than they knew what to do with.

Joe Natoli: So the first part is you have to accept that imposter syndrome, fear, call it what you want. You have to accept it, live with it, and do it anyway. You have to ask the question anyway. You have to take the step anyway, right? You have to take it upon yourself to do a couple hours of research, even if everybody’s saying you can’t do that. You have to move. You have to take a step forward.

Sandro: You have to step into the fear, embrace it.

Joe Natoli: Yes. Like my friend Melanie always says like imposter syndrome. It can sit in the car, it can sit in the passenger seat, but it has to sit there and behave and it’s not allowed to put his hands on the wheels to drive. That’s the first thing. The second thing is I think personally, I feel like the most important trait you can have, and I think I said this on the User Defenders podcast. The most important trait you can have is resilience. The ability to bounce back, come back, because in your career, in life, in every aspect of everything you do, you are going to get knocked down. You’re going to have stuff come at you that you’re not ready for. You’re going to have things that are going to take the wind out of your sails. It’s just natural.

Joe Natoli: In any number of ways, large and small, you have to accept that as reality. You also have to realize that it does not ever have to stop you. I said this to somebody a couple of weeks ago, as long as I’ve been doing this, the only thing that has ever had the potential to stop me is me. That’s the truth. All right, and like everybody, I’ve been through some tough stuff as well personally and professionally. It’s all about you and how you deal with it. You have to keep going, and that’s part of being calm as well. When someone, as you’re having a conversation with a stakeholder and they’re getting heated, because they’re frustrated, they don’t understand why any of this gold plated UX stuff really matters. That’s fine. Let them get upset.

Joe Natoli: You have to take that, you have to let it hit you and let it bounce off, and you stay calm and you focus on, okay, what can I do here? What does this person really need? What can I say to them that’s going to communicate in a way that they’re going to understand me? That’s resilience. That’s resilience. You have to keep coming back.

Sandro: I like that. One thing I think helps there a lot is also because in the moment you’re overwhelmed, right?

Joe Natoli: Yes.

Sandro: The ego thinks it’s forever. This is a state and it’s going to be like this forever, but realize that it is momentary like emotional outburst or something like that that goes down inside you, and that it’s okay and you can just get up and continue I think helps a lot. It’s not permanent.

Joe Natoli: Well it’s biology too. Your brain, your amygdala and your brain literally thinks you’re under attack, and everything in your body and your mind responds appropriately. Okay, let’s go.

Sandro: Yeah, exactly.

Joe Natoli: You have to consciously work to counteract that.

Sandro: Okay, so the two tips from Joe are first-

Joe Natoli: Feel the fear… Two tips. Feel the fear, do it anyway.

Sandro: Nice. I like that.

Joe Natoli: The second thing is practice resilience. Okay, you can and will come back from everything that comes your way. You can, I promise you.

45:34 Recommended resources

Sandro: All right. I like that. Very encouraging words. So if you whether it’s about these topics or in general, are there some resources besides your own courses obviously, you can find them on Udemy, right? Your courses.

Joe Natoli: Yeah., of course, I have also courses on my own platform,, YouTube, social media, my own website,, et cetera, et cetera. So it’s all out there.

Sandro: Okay, good. What other resources do you… Can you recommend some books that you give often to people? What would you recommend?

Joe Natoli: There are several. Number one, anything Alan Cooper has ever written is well worth your time. Even the older books like The Inmates Are Running the Asylum or About Face. I think there is a newer edition of About Face, but even the ones that are dated a little bit, the conceptual ideas there are solid all day long. Don Norman, of course. Excellent, excellent, excellent books. I think that one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life on user research is Erika Hall’s Just Enough Research, and she just released a new expanded edition of it, which looks to be fantastic. It’s a tremendous book. It’s an easy read. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s brilliant. She does the same thing that I talk about a lot, which is let’s get away from this perfect world stuff. Here’s what really needs to happen.

Joe Natoli: In situations where the world doesn’t bend to our will, here’s what you can do. She is as clear-eyed as they come, and I love everything she does. There’s a book called Universal Principles of Design that I think is one of the best resources on design principles ever created. I’ve probably said this before, but my position is the way I learned design is essentially UX. It’s all about people. It’s all about why they respond the way they do. It’s about human behavior, cognitive psychology. This book, even though it’s about the visual design principles, it touches all that stuff. It’s the core of what drives great visual design of any kind. All right, so I think that’s an excellent book. There are probably a lot more, but those are always the ones that come to the top for me.

48:03 Q&A session

Sandro: Perfect. Good. So then let’s take a little segue and let’s go into the Q&A questions. So there is an upload feature, so let me quickly browse through it, but I’m starting with the first one that got six votes. My boss keeps changing the requirements. Like every day he says remove this field flow, our business doesn’t need it, and in the start of wireframing he agreed to the fields flow. Now he believes the UX not being good. How should I handle this? You know, changing requirements.

Joe Natoli: If he’s changing his mind and this goes with anybody. If that person is changing their mind daily, weekly, whatever, that is a sure sign that they’re grasping at stuff. He doesn’t know what’s going to work. That’s fear at work. That’s okay, well let’s do this. Then he goes online on Google and he reads an article by something he goes, “Wait, wait, okay, forget that. Let’s do this instead.” That’s what that is. I’ve seen it 100 times. So what you have to do in that situation is you have to ask that person, “Look, can I talk to you for 15 minutes about this?” Whether that needs to be a formal meeting or an offhand conversation, I don’t care what it is, but you need to have a face-to-face conversation with this person and you need to say, “Look, I feel like we keep changing direction, which is fine, but I think maybe the conversation we’re not having is what are you hoping will happen at the end of this?”

Joe Natoli: When we launched this, whatever it is, what needs to happen for you to feel confident, to feel secure, to feel like this was a success, that this was worth doing in the first place? You want him to tell you what he wants, forget about what the process should be or what should be on the screen. Press him for what he wants, what he wants to happen or what he’s concerned about. Say, “Look, what are you worried won’t happen if we lost this?” That’s the conversation you need to have. All right, and then from that you say, “Well, okay, are the things that we’ve tried so far, the things that we’ve talked about, I think we should try this one thing because I think that’s going to get you closer to where you want. Let’s do this, look at it, see what happens and then we’ll talk about all the other stuff.”

Joe Natoli: Chances are there’s one or two things that are going to get you closer to that goal. The rest of it is just fear and throwing darts and hoping to hit something, but that’s not going to change until you have that conversation with him.

Sandro: Thank you. We go on to Kieran, what are the core components to the research process you would always keep if time is a factor/someone does restrict the amount of time for it?

Joe Natoli: Yeah, which is how about always. Show me a perfect thorough user research part of any project, and I’ll pay you $1 million right now. Time is always a factor. So you’re looking to get to the truth. The first question is do we have access to users or don’t we? If the answer is yes, then you figure out a reasonable time over the target. Again, if they’re not willing to give you a week or even two days or whatever, you have to compress your ask. You have to change what you’re asking for. That’s option A. So you say, “All right, I need half a day to talk to users, or I need a day to talk to users.” How many interviews can you cram into eight hours? Make them quick, make them 20-minute sessions and that’s it. That’s what you ask for.

Joe Natoli: If the answer to that is no, and you have access to users, find a way to do it anyway. No one has to know that those conversations took place, as long as you have permission to talk to those people of course. Now, if you don’t have access to users, fine. You got to find another way. You’ve got to do like for instance, empathy mapping exercises, situation mapping exercises. I wrote a blog post about this quite a while back on They’re great exercises. At the very least, they put everybody and you do this with the team. They put everybody in the mindset of what does this person want, and what’s what we’re delivering going to get them and how does it benefit us? That in and of itself is been beneficial. You can spend four hours on Google looking for things that people complain about. All right, that’s worth something as well.

Joe Natoli: The point is you have to do something, find the time to do something and you do not always have to ask permission to do it. If you’re just doing desk research, Google research, social media research, no one has to sanction that. Carve an hour out of your day and do it. My advice always falls along those lines.

Sandro: Deema is asking is it worth to attach KPI metrics to value definition? So I guess I’m not sure if she’s referring to the prioritization that we mentioned before on what you should actually do in the backlog. When do KPIs actually come into play for you? When does it actually make sense and when is-

Joe Natoli: Well number one, when it doesn’t… Well, I want to say this. When people care about them, when the people making the decisions, when the people making the money decisions, when people who are saying, “Yeah, we are going to spend that much time on this, or we’re not going to spend that much time on this.” When those people care about it, because you can measure KPIs all day long. If no one ever looks at them, it’s pointless. Okay, it’s pointless. I say that because I’ve walked into plenty of organizations where the teams themselves and the product owners in some cases are measuring everything, and they’ve got a ton of data and it’s all very good and very valuable, but no one above them gives a shit. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. They can’t use it for any basis for decision making, because no one’s willing to even look at the data. If that’s happening, it’s pointless. In terms of what’s the question, when should they be used?

Sandro: Is it worth to attach KPI metrics.

Joe Natoli: It is if, I’m going to put two caveats to this. It is if number one, the right people care about those metrics as I said. Number two, if those metrics are clear, simple, easily defined. If I have to read an entire sheet of paper to understand what it is, then no. Okay, I can’t tell you in data-rich environments how many times I’ve seen KPIs or database, evidence-based decisions be presented and you’re expecting someone to sit for a half-hour and hear this. Or you’re expecting somebody to read four pages to understand what’s going on, or look at this convoluted chart that’s very hard to understand. It’s got to be dead simple because no one has time. So if you can’t present it simply, if it’s not hugely compelling, if it’s not the kind of metric that makes people go, “Oh my God,” either we need to take advantage of that or we need to do something about that. If it doesn’t evoke either one of those responses, it’s not worth doing.

Sandro: Thanks. We have maybe time for another two questions. Leon asks, Joe, what do you reply to a client who says, “We already did market research and we already know what to do, and we just need someone to do it”?

Joe Natoli: Well, it’s a matter of qualifying that. You have to say, “All right, fine. What was that market research? Share it with me so that I know what you learned, so that I know what you think is going to happen.” In other words, you have to see it. So you’re not arguing with them. You’re not saying, “Well, I know better.” The way you position it is, “Great. That’s awesome. That’ll inform the work that I do to make sure that we’re on the same page, to make sure that I’m in line with your goals and your needs. So can you please share that with me?” Nine times out of 10 they will, that’s all you say. You look at it, you get it and you’ll see what it says. If there’s validity in there, if they’ve got good representative samples and it’s not these leading questions that most marketing surveys use, if it’s not garbage, then fine.

Joe Natoli: Nine times out of 10, you’ll see the holes in that stuff and then you go back to them and say, “Okay, I got all this stuff and it feels to me like your goal is A, B, C. Is that accurate?” If they say yes or no, then you either speak to the way that that research supports those goals. What they’re asking you to do on the screen either supports those goals or it doesn’t, especially if they’re giving orders. I want it to be like this and work like this and do this. It gives you the opportunity to say, “Well, what I’m hearing is that you want this, but in my experience, none of this stuff is going to get you there. Here’s what’s probably going to happen instead.” So number one, you have to see it. Until you can actually see what the hell they’re talking about, you don’t have a prayer.

Joe Natoli: I had an instance like that, where I was working with a larger organization. They’re like, “No, that’s been tested. It’s been tested. It’s been tested. We did user testing with that.” I said, “Okay, how many people? What’s the sample size? What was that thing like?” Well, six people. Six, were those actual users or were they in internal folks? This is a consumer-facing product. “Well, they were people here.” What I say in that instance is, especially when the person is pushing, “Look, at the end of the day, it’s your decision. It’s your money, it’s your call to make. I’m a consultant. It doesn’t affect my life one way or the other.” I get to leave in two weeks, but what I think is that you’re going to make decisions based on a series of false clues. I think that you’re not going to get what you’re after and you’re going to be frustrated. Six people is not enough to account for idiosyncrasies in human behavior, and it’s also not people who use the product every day.

Joe Natoli: So our perspective inside these walls is biased. That’s a given. So again, we can do this, but I don’t think it’s going to get what you want. You have to at least go on record saying that. There are some times when you have to give in. There’s only so long you can bang your head up against the wall before you say, “You know what? This just has to be done so I can move past it.”

Sandro: Right, or you say, “You know what? That’s how I’m doing things. I’m walking away.” You can always say that too, right?

Joe Natoli: Absolutely.

Sandro: If you have these principles and you’re like-

Joe Natoli: Yeah, you can say, “Look, I think this is going to hurt you and I cannot in good conscience do it, because you’re going to be really angry and you’re going to be really angry with me once it’s done, and that’s going to suck for both of us.”

Sandro: Yeah, and then emotional pain is shared. Exactly.

Joe Natoli: Clients especially, and I forgot this as a client question. I’m going to say this and then I’ll let it go. You should be willing to walk away. If you think they’re heading into danger, you should walk away. It’s the hardest thing to do when you work for yourself, because you don’t want to give with money, but I promise you the fallout from that will hurt you more. If you go down that path and it doesn’t work, you’re still the guy who made it happen, or girl who made it happen. It’s not worth it. The fall out from that will last a very long time, and they will bitch about you to every single person they come in contact with. Walk away if you have to.

Sandro: Well, since everybody likes your advice so much, we do two more questions. So if you’ve got the time, obviously.

Joe Natoli: Yeah, as long as you want me.

Sandro: All right, perfect. So there is a question from Walter Yang and Marie Williams that go into a similar direction. Marie asks, “Do you have tips for collaborating with developers that are nine plus hours away to help get common understanding, and have conversations around things that don’t make sense or work technically?” Walter asks something similar, “How would you approach working with only developers overseas in an HR method? I’ve been noticing there’s a great decrease in time efficiency and so forth.” So yeah, what’s your take on that, on having developers remote and then going through the-

Joe Natoli: So it sounds like in both cases, there’s a significant time difference, is that right?

Sandro: Probably, I’m not sure in Walter’s case, but definitely in Maggie’s case, yes.

Joe Natoli: Okay. Well I mean, you have to find common ground, and you have to find a good way to check in with each other and it has to be often. Here’s the problem I see in those situations, and a lot of the companies I work with have outsourced teams. One of the ways this never works is we do the thing where we say, “Okay, we’re going to have a regular check-in once a week, or even twice a week.” Let’s just that’s usually what I see. A lot of times it’s once or twice a week where you’re checking in with the outsource team. Here’s reality, that needs to happen every day, likely multiple times a day. Now, is that easy when the team is remote? No, it isn’t. It absolutely isn’t. At the very least, you have to set up a situation where, let’s say they’re overseas and while you’re sleeping, they’re working.

Joe Natoli: At the very least, you have to set it up where there’s a review that happens every morning when you wake up, and go in the office or sit down at your desk where you can see, all right, what’s been done, where are we? If that means that you have to take the time to physically give detailed feedback and ask questions on that and then throw it over the wall, sometimes that’s necessary. If you do that often enough, that mitigates or prevents this from becoming like this waterfall thing where now I’m waiting for them, they’re waiting for me. Often is the key in any situation, but ideally, you’re checking in with those people once a day to review where are we right now? Forget about midweek or in week or end of the sprint or middle of the sprint. I don’t care. Whatever works, a couple of times a week, every day if possible.

Joe Natoli: Just a quick check-in 15 minutes. Here’s what I just did. What do you think? You see any red flags here? You see anything that’s painting you guys into a corner, have we done anything that’s painted you into a corner? Is there anything that you’re missing from us? Anything that we’re not giving you that you need? You got to just dig through it collaboratively as if you were sitting there working on it together. Doing that once a week is not enough. Doing that every two weeks is certainly not enough. It’s got to be as often as you can humanly pull it off, because otherwise, you’re going to keep running into the situations that I think both these folks are describing. Often.

Sandro: Thank you. Then let’s go to the last question. Lisa Baskett asks-

Joe Natoli: I know Lisa.

Sandro: You know Lisa, okay. So then you have more context than I do. How do you move an organization stuck in analysis paralysis when you’re the only one evangelizing learning by doing?

Joe Natoli: That’s never happened to me. I’ve never seen that happen anywhere in 29 years. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Again, and I said this before, that analysis paralysis comes from fear. Everyone is afraid to pull the trigger. They’re afraid to make a decision and they’re afraid that they’re wrong. There are a couple of reasons that they’re afraid that they’re wrong. Number one, they don’t know that they’re looking in the right place, they’re not convinced that they’re looking in the right place. They’re not convinced that they’re asking the right questions. In a lot of cases, they may not understand the answers, even if they’re getting them. That’s just we don’t want to be wrong. So what you’re looking for are ways to minimize that risk for them, because a lot of times where that over-analysis comes from is the fact that they’re staring down this much work or this much time, right? It’s from now until the time we launch this piece.

Joe Natoli: You have to you, and this is hard. I make it sound like it’s easy. It’s not. You have to get them to focus on one piece of this. Not all of it. Not the be all end all what does this get us? You’ve got to get them to focus on one piece. Of all the stuff that we’re planning to do in the next two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, whatever it is, what matters most? What is the thing? Like a forest startup for example. What is the thing that either allows us to live another day, or is going to kill us dead if we get it wrong? What is that thing? It’s in there somewhere. They just maybe don’t know how to tell you what it is. You’ve got to find out what they’re afraid of bottom line. So at the very least you say, “Look, we’ve been talking about this for quite a while now and we’re not getting anywhere, so let me take a different tack.”

Joe Natoli: What are you afraid is going to go wrong here? What are you afraid isn’t going to happen if we don’t get this right? Or you say what part of this are you most worried about? You got to forget the project. Forget the details. Forget the features, even forget the users. What are you worried about here? What are we most concerned about, and let’s start there. You’ve got to narrow their focus because if you cannot narrow their focus, this will continue. They’re going to keep looking at everything and anything. You got to find a way to get them to see that look of all this stuff that we’re talking about, this piece is the piece we need to get right, because if we screw this up, everything else doesn’t matter. There’s always something in every project, every product, every organization that is always present. I’ve never seen an instance where it wasn’t. So you got to get personal, and it’s hard for those people. It’s hard for them to do it.

Sandro: I also to add to that, the one thing that I always find is I think you mentioned it quickly, it’s always something to hide behind. I mean you hide behind it because when you are doing it, then you are invariably going to encounter problems and it might not work, right? So you are hiding it with analyzing the issue or the project or what we’re going to planning, you over plan and stuff like that. So what I usually like to say also in this case is not making a decision is a decision. I think if people understand that, it’s making a decision not to go forward. It’s making a decision to actually delay the project in a way, but that’s just my two cents as well.

Joe Natoli: I think that’s good. I think that’s good, and here’s something else that made me think of. I mean the alternate approach is take a piece that’s still maybe a big win for them, but is inconsequential, that’s less risky and execute on it because again, that analysis paralysis, that’s also fear of making a move. It’s fear of like I’m standing on the edge of the cliff and I’m afraid to jump. So see if there’s… Sorry. Thought I had turned that off. See if there’s something that is low risk, that scares them less. That you know you can execute on in a reasonable amount of time, even in prototype form and show them okay look, here’s how we could do this. That might take their temperatures down a little bit and make them feel like okay, all right that seems reasonable. Look for something that can maybe just calm them down, give them something concrete that’ll make them stop feeling like this is a big black hole and they don’t know how any of it is going to work.

Joe Natoli: That’s one of the reasons I love low fidelity prototyping. When I say low fidelity, I don’t even just mean wireframes. I mean sketching on a whiteboard. I mean having a one-hour meeting and saying, “Okay, what’s this piece? What if we prototyped this?” You just work it out in real-time. You talk about it, you draw it out and again, you’re looking for something that’s going to make them feel like okay, this is achievable. Let’s do that piece. Let’s get some progress and now we feel like okay, we’ve got through something because that’s the other part. They feel like they’re not getting anywhere, and the longer they don’t get anywhere, the longer there is no progress, the longer there’s a gap between what they’re thinking and what actually gets built in any way, the fear just grows. Uncertainty grows, the worry grows.

Sandro: When you put something that is actually into the real world like a sketch, then you have something to actually talk about and that relieves some of the fear. Okay, that’s how it could look like. So now we have an image in your head versus just like all the data, and everything you need to do and scaring.

Joe Natoli: Right. It goes from this to this.

Sandro: Yeah.

Joe Natoli: Totally agree.

Sandro: All right, that was 15 minutes more than we planned, but I think it was well worth it.

Joe Natoli: I hope so.

1:10:12 Joe Natoli at UX Live in London

Sandro: Thank you very much, Joe for your time and your advice and answering all those questions.

Joe Natoli: Thank you for having me.

Sandro: One thing for everyone that’s still in the audience, so Joe, can you quickly talk about what your presentation will be about the UX Live, what’s the title and one or two bullet points? Also while he’s doing that, we’ll post a, how do you say it? Coupon code into the chat where you can have 15% off the ticket, UX Live from the 11th until the 13th of November. So what are you going to talk about, Joe?

Joe Natoli: Well, you just got a really good preview of a lot of it, because the topic of the talk and the talk is called Getting Real About UX. It is entirely about all these battles that we face every day are number one, not always the result of what we think they are. In a lot of cases, we are more responsible for that, and a lot of times we create a lot of that friction unknowingly, unwillingly. It’s about the fact that all of this great real world, perfect world advice ordered processes, they sound great on paper, they fail miserably. We’re going to talk about why that happens. We’ll talk about why that happens, I’m going to talk about what to do instead. How to take an alternate approach, how to stop putting yourself in a position where people are automatically trained to not listen to you. Like I said, the big takeaway is this is more in our hands than we think it is. I encounter that everywhere I go. So that’s what we’re going to talk about. Let’s get real.

Sandro: All right. Let’s get real with Joe. Thank you very much, Joe.

Joe Natoli: Thank you.

Sandro: It was a pleasure talking to you, and I hope the audience also got a lot of notes out of this. See you next time. The next episode is going to be next week, episode number four. We’ll send out an email regarding that shortly. Thank you very much, everyone.

Joe Natoli: Gratitude.

Sandro: Bye. Thank you, Joe. Cheers.

Joe Natoli: Bye-bye.