Beth Altringer, PhD
Interim Director, Visiting Lecturer at SEAS
Beth is a psychologist of small group innovation, with a masters degree in architecture. Her work focuses on factors related to more (and less) successful innovations, and practical ways that we can support more teams to succeed more often. Beth worked with social psychologist, Robert Cialdini, early in her career, and later began applying her interests in behavior, diverse cultures and design to innovation and sustainability. During her PhD, Beth researched design teams at IDEO and J. Walter Thompson across six continents and 11 countries, looking at cultural, organizational and disciplinary differences in small group creativity, and ultimately developing a model explaining creative performance differences across teams. Her experience includes teaching and research on creative team dynamics as a visiting scholar at the Stanford Institute of Design (D-School), and consulting on innovation-related initiatives for the PPR Group, Gucci Group and Puma (as a core team member of the conceptual phase of PPR Home); UK health policy; the City of Cape Town and ARG Design; and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Beth served as Senior Advisor to Artscience Labs in Innovation Education from 2010-2012.
Dr. Altringer is very active in curriculum development for innovation education. She created a new multi-disciplinary class starting Spring 2013 called Engineering Sciences 22: Design Survivor: Experiential lessons in designing for desirability. In it, students learn to create products and services that are desirable, irresistible, delightful, cool, covetable, viral, and – increasingly in today’s day and age – much more likely to be successful. Designers, engineers, developers, entrepreneurs, architects and creators of all kinds work in professions where technical functionality and economic viability are not enough to remain competitive. The factor differentiating entities like Apple, Louis Vuitton, Kiva, IDEO, Harvard, Madonna, Nike – and others that have been able to weather the economic storms of our time – is their ability to consistently offer something beyond functionality and financial viability. These examples manage to capture and sustain the attention of their employees, users, clients and customers. They are, intentionally or not, designed for desirability. Desirability has long characterized the creative industries, and in this course, students learn to apply these principles to other forms of innovation – from improving health literacy campaigns to revamping declining technologies or redefining luxury goods as both aspirational and sustainable.
Beth created a new class for Fall ’11, Engineering Sciences 21: The Innovator’s Practice based on her creative team dynamics research in IDEO and elsewhere. This class helps students gain experience overcoming many under-represented challenges of becoming an innovator, and is based on the premise that innovation, like anything, takes practice. In the real world having a good idea is seldom enough to create real world impact. Today teams create more knowledge and impact than individuals, and students must develop skills not only in finding good ideas, but also in leading creative projects, working well in teams, negotiating strategy, organizing, conducting user-research, understanding social influence and other skills more typically taught in psychology or business.
Beth co-taught ES20: How to Create Things and Have Them Matter with Professor David Edwards in 2011 and 2012, and continues on as Senior Advisor in Innovation Education to the global educational program, Artscience Prize, that is linked to the course. ES20 teaches students to generate, develop and realize breakthrough ideas in the arts, sciences, and engineering. Students form groups of three to five around “seed ideas” proposed at the start of the class around a common theme. Over the course of the semester students then mold these ideas, all of which aim at a major need or opportunity in culture, industry, or humanitarian engagement, and develop “idea translation proposals” by which, if funded, they will be able to begin idea development, possibly leading to the startup of a nonprofit or for-profit organization, or the creation of a work of art or design.
In 2010, she created the Team Design Studio, which focused on two areas. It developed tailored research programs exploring success factors in idea and team development in educational and organizational settings. The Studio also designedexperiential learning workshops for improving group creative problem solving across different contexts. Beth ran these experiential design workshops for diverse groups, including classes at SEAS, the iLab, executive groups, high school and international students. Her Team Design Studio activities now take place within the b4bi Group.
SEAS Website: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/directory/altringe/
- Altringer, B. (forthcoming 2012). “The good, the bad, and the average: Innovative project outcomes are related to team social engagement.” In L. Book (ed), Creativity and Entrepreneurship: Changing currents in education and public life. Edward K. Elgar Press.
- Hennessey, B; Altringer, B; (forthcoming 2013) “Creativity across cultures.” In I. Carlsson and E. Hoff (eds), Curious About Creativity: Creativity from different perspectives of psychology. Liber.
- Hennessey, B; Altringer, B; Moran, S. (forthcoming 2012) “Social psychology of creativity.” Encyclopedia of Creativity, Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
- Amabile, T; Hennessey, B; Altringer, B; Moran, S. (forthcoming 2012) “Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.” Encyclopedia of Management.
- Altringer, B. (under review). “Making it work: Empathy, resilience and design team creative performance on innovation consultancy projects.”
- Dow, S.P., Fortuna, J., Schwartz, D., Altringer, B., Schwartz, D.L. and Klemmer, S.R. (2011) “Prototyping dynamics: sharing multiple designs improves exploration, group rapport and results.” CHI 2011.
- Altringer, B. (2010) “The emotional experience of patient care: a case for innovation in health care design.” Journal of Health Services Research and Policy, 15:174-17.
- Dawson, S., Morris, Z.S., Erickson, W., Lister, G., Altringer, B., Garside, P. and Craig, M. (2007) Engaging with care: a vision for the health and care workforce of England. London: Nuffield Trust.
- Dawson, S., Morris, Z.S., Erickson, W., Lister, G., Altringer, B., Garside, P. and Craig, M. (2007) Three future scenarios and associated policy levers for health and care in England in 2022. Cambridge: Policy Futures for UK Health, Cambridge University.
- Rendall, A., Cowen, A., Goven, G. Collis, V., Altringer, B. et al.(2005) Tsoga Environmental Centre local sustainability catalyst. Cape Town, South Africa: ARG Design. (award-winning submission for the international Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction).
Selected Presentations and Design Workshops:
- Altringer, B. (Apr 2012) “Designing for radical time saving.” Harvard Innovation Lab
- Altringer, B. & Schlesinger, L. (Feb 2012) “Empowering faculty creativity in and outside of the classroom.” Ashoka Global Exchange, Arizona State University
- Altringer, B. (Jan 2012) “Fostering creativity across diverse contexts.” Acceptance of New York University Innovation Award. New York University
- Altringer, B. (Jan 2012) “Project runway comes to Harvard.” Harvard Business School Innovation Lab
- Collaboration between IDEO & Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Jan 2011) “IDEO jDesign Workshop.” Harvard University
- Collaboration between Harvard Law School & Stanford Law School. (Jan 2012) “Ideas for a Better Internet (winter term)”. Stanford University
- Hennessey, B., Altringer, B., and Moran, S. (2011) “Measuring, researching and fostering creativity.” MIT
- Altringer, B. (Dec 2011) “Researching creativity across diverse contexts.” MIT
- Altringer, B. & Chen, S. (Aug 2011) “Team Design Challenge: Public exhibition of your ideas.” Artscience Labs Annual Innovation Workshop. Le Laboratoire, Paris
- Collaboration with Stanford colleagues (May 2011). “Prototyping Dynamics.” Computer Human Interaction, CHI, Vancouver
- Altringer, B. (Multiple 2011) Team Design workshops for the Idea Translation Lab program for Saudi Arabia
- Altringer, B. (Multiple 2010-11) Team Design workshops for the Artscience Prize Program for Boston and Singapore
- Altringer, B. (Mar 2011) Harvard Business School, Brainstorm for the new HBS Field Course (lead facilitator)
- Altringer, B. (Aug 2010) Stanford Design School, Design thinking and the art of innovation team dynamics module
- Altringer, B. (Jul 2010) “Team creative problem solving in a multi-national context.” Stanford University, Human Computer Interaction
- Altringer, B. (2010) “Creativity and innovation at work.” Oxford University Said Business School, UK
- Altringer, B. (2009) “The effect of different types of client behavior on the innovation process.” IDEO & JWT Corporate
- Altringer, B. (2009) “Different strokes for different folks: an analysis of team member perceptions of the creative process in advertising and product design teams in the USA and China.” EGOS Colloquium, 2-4 July 2009: Barcelona, Spain
- Altringer, B. (2009) “The expectation gap: the relationship between individual perception, intrinsic motivation and innovative teamwork.” Spring Doctoral Conference, Said Business School, University of Oxford, 17 April 2009
- Altringer, B. (2008) “Individual perceptions and creative teamwork across different country offices of multinational companies.” Workshop on Open Innovation, 10-11 December 2008, The Cambridge–MIT Institute, Cambridge, England
- Altringer, B. and Liu, C. (2008) “Creative problem stalling: exploring efficiency in team-based creative problem solving.” Winter Doctoral Conference, 8-9 December 2008, Judge Business School, Cambridge, England
Recent Press Coverage:
- Huffington Post, Innovate before you Incubate: Harvard’s Real World Course for Practicing Innovation, Feb 14, 2012
- Harvard Crimson, An Innovative Education: Entrepreneurship Post-Zuckerberg, Apr 12, 2012