introducing the nine principles of

About The Book and the author

Innovation has become a lazy industry word

Mario Van der Meulen
Often but a label for yet another leadership ambition, another consultant-driven program, it has ceased to be a positive force for change. To reverse this, we need to leverage its design and value creation free of the tyranny of profit and efficiency. By designing our innovation with more meaning, and not only for iteration, disruption or predictability. Innovators and designers often attempt to construct the future using rather rigid, process-driven methodologies - like design thinking. Mostly leading to outcomes that reproduce known thinking and meaningless ideas. With the tech, consumer, and design fields converging, we need to make a mindset shift to create a future that looks more human by tech, and not less because of it.
For innovation to deliver more meaninful products, services or ways of doing things, practitioners will need to act more with Counterintuitivity. Because value is not just profit. This doesn’t require title or position, and certainly not permission by those holding these. Let Counterintuitivity become your way of being innovative.
There is not yet a definitive playbook for this tech era: our design practice is racing ahead of theory, and the pioneers who can crack the code of shared meaning will be greatly advantaged. Practitioners that can propose new ways to shape meaningful possibilities are the ones that will warrant the reputation of being innovators. Are you ready to become a catalyst for meaningful innovation?
Mario Van der Meulen discovers, designs and delivers experience design principles. Formerly as creative director at Frog, and currently as a Principal Designer at Foolproof, he is an ambidextrous designer-strategist with over 25 years of international experience, based in Singapore. In our design-by-humans-for-humans world, he works to dispel the misconceptions about how breakthrough ideas for meaningful innovation are made. By offering range, from product-centric to a systems view, he helps people come together, work together, create together and change the world. 

Driven by the belief that people ignore design that ignores people, he leads an innovation process where each participant can find the right conversation, the right advice, the right mind-meld, at the right time for the right reasons.
Mario helps corporations find short-term wins and long-term growth by cultivating decision intelligence, providing expertise in insights, strategy, trends, and creativity. In 2010, CBS Weekly recognised Mario as “One of Fifty Innovation Design Pioneers in China”. A recent Foolproof project received the 2018 IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA). An avid keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and a writer on Creativity, Change and Design Mindset, he has delivered over 250 speeches and creative sessions in over 20 countries on 5 continents.

To find out more, be inspired in the areas of creativity, change or design mindset, or if you are interested in booking a speech or workshop (now or in the future), please contact him, or follow him at the usual channels:

Why, Hello!

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Mario Van der Meulen
Designer. Strategist. Speaker. Author. Graphicdesignosaurus.

The Content

Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
Part 1 - The Matters of Innovation. We are human by innovation. Apart from that which nature provides without any human intervention, everything else is humanmade. The creation of things with spaces, textures, and materials are outcomes of inventions and innovations. The actions we do with these, the meanings we gave to and associate from them, the value we bestow in them; these are all acts of design.
What are distinctions between inventing and innovating? What is an act of design? All are surrounded by confusion and misunderstanding. And it is not only ambiguous by those outside the realm of design; this confusion lives among designers and innovators as well. Part 1 will unpack these terms while shifting the reader's perspective to gain a more deeper understanding.

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Kurt Vonnegut
Part 2 - Questioning The Questions. Over the decades, innovations have happened across industries, in waves that ripple out across global economies. The recent wave of innovation has been in apps: the “algorithmatization” of personal, yet anonymous, market exchanges of even the tiniest of everyday human interactions.
Following the iteration playbooks, however, is a journey down a narrow path of predictability. Disruption often seems to miss the point, and ripples out even faster. If innovation is to bring positive change to our world, most of what we do with it falls short of that mark. What can we call innovation?

Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we are in'.

Ronald Reagan
Part 3 - Acting On What Matters. Caught in the iteration of ideas, innovation is at risk of losing its vision. Purpose is billed as profitability. Obsessions with automation and predictability is eroding the humanity out of ideas. Data offers hindsight only, whereas innovators and designers who use them seek to be agents of foresight and possibilities.
For all our focus on futurism as being about the future, it’s actually a lens on the present, a snapshot of the way we deal with time itself and how we prioritize our actions. Innovators and designers are, in essence, meaning-makers. For meaning to be part of the innovation, it must be part of the creation act. What matters for this to happen?

Normality is a paved road; it's comfortable to walk on. But no flowers grow on it.

Vincent Van Gogh
Part 4 - The Principles Of Counterintuitivity. Innovation is broken. We did not invent, and then innovate, the electric light by continuously improving the candles. Intuition is great for iteration, but it is those who can pioneer new ways to propose more meaningful possibilities that warrant the reputation of being innovators.
If you try to innovate the same way everyone else tries to innovate, it’s hard to imagine or claim that you’ll be very, well, innovative. By countering the predictability of our thinking and doing, our conversations and decision making, we can better assess how we move innovation forward with more meaningful propositions.

You should read this if you...

want to unshackle creativity

We all have innate human capabilities to imagine. Orchestrating ways to evoke meaning and possibilities to broaden the outcomes of our innovations needs new ways of seeing, thinking, understanding and acting, to intentionally embrace the richness of possibilities. Only what is done meaningfully will have meaning for others. Surprisingly, it is often done by doing more of what seems counterintuitive.

want to navigate the chaos

Innovation with technology and business models is already complicated; but when the human factor is added, it becomes complex. Complex requirements between business and technology turn into complex problems that have to be approached with new ways of thinking and working. New ways, even the ones that feel counterintuitive, are the kind a design mind should love to embrace!

want new perspectives

I declare something that is not ground breaking: we are innovating for people to engage with the thing we innovate. Yet often fall short of the mark. Counterintuitivity introduces principles of doing this more meaningfully. Our innovation practice needs to be able to question the meaning of it all, become more than profit oriented, and use different methodologies to see us co-evolve with the world’s evolving ecosystems.

want to make a change

Everything is changing. The way we look at things is changing. The things we are looking at are also changing all the time. It's the way of the world. Ironically, the only thing that is harder to realise is changing ourselves. Our innovation practice needs to be able to question the meaning of it all, become more than profit oriented, and use different methodologies to see us co-evolve with the world’s evolving ecosystems.

want to create meaning

The role of innovators is to explore a future that by definition is uncertain, unpredictable. If we continue the path of only thinking about the short term, the repeatable, the measurable, then known and the familiar, then we are no longer asking questions about the future. We will fall short of our potential; to inspire a future of possibilities. Imagining and creating that what is experienced as meaningful.

want to be a pioneer

Only those that can pioneer these new ways to propose more meaningful possibilities will warrant the reputation of being true innovators. They will be the ones keeping our innovations and designs human. In fact, they will make these become more meaningfully human. Are you ready to act as a catalyst for meaningful innovation and design action?


From Mario’s Counterintuitivity, I see a designer’s honesty and elegance in his journey to create meaningful innovation. His principles help me reflect my own journey trying to deliver purposeful innovation in this ambiguous, volatile world.

Jean Lin, Global CEO Isobar


In a time of well-trodden paths of groupthink and overused business buzzwords, it’s exciting to read how we can go against the grain to arrive at unexpected destinations. Mario has poured a lifetime of thinking into this fascinating treatise on battling cookie-cutter innovation. Every page turns into a new perspective on how to look at the world and celebrate curiosity in our work and lives. A major achievement.

Chris Jones, ECD, Author “The Axis Of Success” “The UX Of Me”


In Counterintuitivity, Mario gives us a thoughtful, well-informed set of ways of approaching this complex and wide-ranging subject called ‘Innovation’, demonstrating the power of creative leadership with a focus on social value through meaningful interactions.

Scott Allan, Author “Do It Scared”, “Empower Your Fear” & “The Master Of Achievement”


Written for entrepreneurs, executives, designers and innovators on the front line in virtually any industry – anyone who wants to move beyond the hype and get innovation to really work will find the tradecraft revealed here to be an indispensable must-read.

Andrew Grant, Author "The Innovation Race", & "Who Killed Creativity?"

Free Chapters

The Trees And The Forest
The Matters of Innovation | Free Chapter
We need more visionary innovation work where we shape new meaning for something that shifts perspectives and environments.
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Is It Failure Or Incompetence?
Questioning the questions | Free Chapter
Fail hard, fail fast is just plain bad advice. How should “failure” be defined by those in the pursuit of meaningful innovation?
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Stop Digging Deeper Holes
Acting on what matters | Free Chapter
Innovation strategies are failing us. What are alternatives in forward-thinking that can supplement these now obsolete push/pull strategies?
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Extra-extra! Three more principles of counterintuitivity!

Be more unreasonable
Counterintuitivity | Bonus Principle 10
We're in love with ideas. The more ideas we have, the better our innovations will be. Alas, not all ideas are equal. Because too few of us are unreasonable.
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it's presence, not praise
Counterintuitivity | Bonus Principle 11
Our confidence, skill and success are measured in proportion to the praise we receive. This is a fallacy that we must change, with counterintuitivity.
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BYOB - bring your own bias
Counterintuitivity | Bonus Principle 12
Our business literature is replete with advice to avoid being biased. Counter to this warning I ask you bring your bias; it will help you make better decisions.
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