The Up-ended Design Model

There is sometimes a merit in doing things the wrong way round. That’s what I’m learning as I seek to build my mental health business, Mental Snapp, and what I think I can start to apply to the mental health field more broadly.

I wrote last week about the importance of accepting challenge to the status quo as part of the most important element of working with service users. I could go further. In building a business, I’m learning, the personal qualities of the people you are working with matter much more than what their skills set is. What you want to find in a business colleague ideally is someone you could go on a long haul flight to Australia with. Certainly for a start up, that sense of adventure is what is required.

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This image is the job advert that Ernest Shackleton put in the paper for his trip to the Antarctic. You won’t see in there a list of skills required. What he wanted, and what he ended up getting from his up ended description, was people with the personal qualities that he required. By emphasising the risks entailed, he got the crew who had the right motivation. That’s what I want for my team.

But I was thinking as well of how this could be applied to service users consulting on service design. I think it is applicable. The assumption is generally that service users will have a list of specifications, or requirements that they want out of a service. And that is what is generally asked of them. But there is a line of questioning that is arguably more important.

I think what service users really care about in co-designing a service is what that service feels like to them. The personality of the service. How they relate to it. They want Shackleton’s explorer. A service that is motivated to go with them on their journey, no matter how hazardous, to recognise and acknowledge the risks and to hope for great glory on return. The life of the mind is hazardous, adventurous and as potentially full of heroism and beauty, as was the journey to Antarctica. To accompany there, a service needs to be compassionate, companion-oriented and focused on the positive. It is heroism at its most everyday that service users want, and not a tick box exercise in service requirements. To up end the design model is to design from the bottom up. At my bottom line, in my mental extremis, that’s the kind of companionship I want. I’m sure in that I am not alone.

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