Fluent Innovation and the Fight for Mental Health

Tom Ewing, Senior Director – Labs, reflects on Ollie Aplin’s new book, This Book Will Make You Stronger, mental health and Fluent Innovation.


Ollie Aplin is one of the talented designers who’s been working with us to make our System1 book look amazing. But that’s not all he does – he’s also the founder of MindJournal, a journaling company aimed at men. His book, This Book Will Make You Stronger, is out now.


I wanted to write about the book not just because Ollie’s a talented guy, but because what he’s doing with this book is important. (And it ties in a bit with our work here, as you’ll see.) There’s been a lot of talk recently about the importance of getting men to talk about mental health issues, but it’s no easy task. Speaking personally, I was in my 40s before I felt able to talk publically about having suffered from depression. And from Winston Churchill to Stormzy, this is something that affects an awful lot of men.

Talking about mental health issues is important not just because it reduces stigma, but because it helps deal with things and put problems in a better perspective. But if you find talking to other people about them hard, you can do the next best thing: talk to yourself. Not out loud, but to a journal.

Journaling is a proven way of helping you cope with problems and release some of your stress. But not many men do it – the modern journaling movement has been predominantly female. Ultimately it doesn’t matter why women often seem to find it easier to talk about their mental health issues than men – biology, society, whatever – but they do. (And if the men in their lives and families don’t feel able to talk about those problems, that’s likely to have a pretty bad effect on them too.)

Journaling is therapeutic, practical and doesn’t cost much. So how to you get men to do it? That’s where MindJournal comes in. This Book Will Make You Stronger is designed to remove the barriers to journaling for its audience, by presenting them with a series of 30 simple writing exercises and structuring it like a workout, from warm-up to completion.

That’s an approach which should ring bells if you’ve been following what we do at System1. Ollie’s book is a classic bit of Fluent Innovation, where you give your idea the best opportunity for wider acceptance by framing the new behaviour you want to encourage in reassuringly familiar terms. In MindJournal’s case the new behaviour is keeping a diary, and the familiar behaviour is the language of the gym: exercising, getting stronger, daily workouts. The whole book is framed in terms of strength, like a kind of emotional keep-fit.

It’s an exciting approach and we wish Ollie and MindJournal every success with it! By following the rules of Fluent Innovation, he’s giving himself the best possible chance.


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