For some reason or other, this always seems to raise its ugly head on internal projects. My experience with these is that everyone tends to think they’re an expert, there’s no natural chain of command, the people who tend to volunteer are often suck-ups and preeners … Add in the fact that no one’s going to pay attention to the end results anyway, and you’re all set!
Not too surprisingly, my first experience with this goes all the way back to grad school (the original quote was about academia, by the way). Now, that stuff really did amaze me. In fact, it’s probably why I don’t have a PhD at the end of my name, to be honest.
One of the great attractions about industry was that I didn’t have to worry too much about all that. Either the stakes were pretty high, or people simply weren’t that into fretting and drama, and just wanted to get something decent out the door.
At the same time, I happened to be very lucky in that I always seemed to find myself in situations where I was encouraged to sample the academic side of things. Conferences, papers, speaking engagements, guest lectures, organizational work were all encouraged. It was the best of both worlds.
I also found that I was most attracted to the academic stuff that was only of the most practical nature. So, UXPA over CHI, the Journal of Usability Studies versus Proceedings of the IEEE, Jakob Nielsen before Don Norman …
Sometimes, though, even industry can turn a bit petty. Luckily, though, it seems to be mostly in those unusual situations, where the normal guardrails are not always in place. And in those situations, it’s always helpful to remind myself that it may not matter all that much, and that I can always save my energy for something that does.