Beth Altringer

Beth Altringer

  • Lecturer on Innovation and Design


Dr. Beth Altringer is a psychologist of small group innovation and human centered design, with a masters degree in architecture. Her research focuses one main question: what factors differentiate more (and less) successful innovation projects? She has worked with hundreds of teams across a range of multinational companies and educational institutions, using both qualitative and quantitative methods to explore this question, and is interested in practical ways that we can support more teams to succeed more often. 

Dr. Altringer is very active in curriculum development for innovation education. She created and leads the b4bi Group, which focuses on four areas: educational experience design (courses), student idea development (active development and partnerships), applied scientific research, and research-based practical experimentation to support the general public in making progress on their personal and side-project creative goals. In addition to her work at SEAS, Dr. Altringer works with the Harvard Innovation Lab, co-leads Harvard's winter-term immersion in Cultural Entrepreneurship in New York City, is a Faculty Associate of the Berkman Center, and served on MIT's Task Force for Learning Environments in 2013.

In 2013, Beth designed a new multi-disciplinary class, Engineering Sciences  22: Design Survivor: Experiential Lessons in Design 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. 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. Desirability has long characterized the creative industries, and in this course, students learn through cases, and a series of reality TV-inspired analogical challenges, to apply these principles to other forms of innovation – from improving health literacy campaigns to emerging technologies to declining product categories or redefining the future of luxury goods.

In Fall 2011, Dr. Altringer created ES21: The Innovator's Practice based on her research inside exceptionally innovative companiesThe Huffington Post described the class as: 'Harvard's Real World Obstacle Course for Practicing Innovation'. Promising student startups like Politoscape emerged in the first year of the class, and continue to develop a year later. In 2011 and 2012, she co-taught, with Prof. David Edwards, ES20: How to Create Things and Have Them Matter, the cornerstone class of the Lab at Harvard. From 2010-2012, she built experiential learning design modules and research projects on team innovation, collaborating with a number of classes, including ES20, ES21, ES96, ES227, Ideas for a Better Internet, and the Artscience Prize international educational program. 

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. She served as Senior Advisor to Artscience Labs in Innovation Education from 2010-2012.

Contact Information

Office:289 Pierce Hall


  • MIT Fostering Creativity Fellow (MIT-Singapore International Design Center), 2011-2013
  • NYU/NYU-Poly Verizon Spirit of Innovation Award, 2012
  • Ashoka U Innovation Award Runner-up, 2012
  • Stanford University Design School/Human Computer Interaction Group, Visiting Scholar, 2010 
  • University of Cambridge Emmanuel College Derek Brewer Fellow (UK), 2007-2010
  • City of London Worshipful Company of Marketors Award (UK), 2009
  • Fulbright Scholar (Spain)
  • Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction (Bronze, Africa & Middle East, shared award)
  • University of Cape Town Global Scholar (South Africa)
  • Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar (Chile)
  • David L. Boren (NSEP) Scholar (Czech Republic)
  • Arizona Regents Scholar
  • Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society