Design and Innovation Teaching and Learning Bio
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I run the Design Lab and have been deeply engaged in developing Design, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship initiatives at Harvard during a critical period of 4x growth in student interest in these areas. You can find me running back and forth between my office at the engineering school and HBS with my role as founding faculty in the joint-degree MSMBA Program. I develop courses, curriculum, and programs, run a research lab focused on advancing design teaching and learning, and a design firm in Boston. I've had the pleasure and honor of working with exceptionally talented and curious students and researchers as they learn to bring Design methods and sensibilities to their disciplines. Notable achievements:
+ Recognized in 2016 by The Harvard Crimson as one of the university’s top 15 professors.
+ Founding faculty of the MSMBA program, with the pleasure of collaborating with a dream team of three other professors (Tom Eisenmann (HBS), Rob Howe (SEAS), Alan McCormack (HBS)). We designed and got approval for this two-year degree program to train future technical leaders in a quarter of the usual approval time.
+ Created seven courses in eight years: Integrated Design (ES285), Product and Experience Design for Desirability (ES22), and Innovators’ Practice (ES21), and four immersive courses (Human-Centered Algorithm Design, wearable tech in NYC, the rise of digital nomadism, and cultural entrepreneurship in NYC).
+ Founder of the Desirability Lab, which includes a longitudinal research program that generates insights to improve design and innovation teaching and learning at Harvard.
Design Practice Bio
My focus is on designing experiences and technologies that go beyond making life easy. Convenience by itself is a dull goal for life. I'm interested in design and technology that augments human learning and our capacity to experience regular moments of creativity, meaning and social joy. A few highlights:
- Founded The Desirablity Lab in 2014. Past clients include: Kering, Gucci Group, Uber, Puma, Swarovski, SABMiller, Diageo, IDEO, FIFA, Deloitte, Microsoft, Intel, E&Y, Onewheel, Stanford, MIT, the Knight Foundation, and more.
- Created and launched Chef League, a mobile game that makes it fun to learn chef improvisation skills, in 2019. It was the first time a mobile game made it possible to compete based on editing recipes to make them tastier. It was also the first game to feature AI critics based on science-quality data. Both the scoring and the AI food critics were built on Flavor Genome Project data to help everyday people learn from chef and sommelier decision data.
- Created and launched The Flavor Genome Project in 2015, flavor intelligence research software that provides new, computational ways of understanding, mapping and navigating human flavor perception. We initially worked with blind tasting experts, sommeliers, and chefs to build a strong taxonomy based on human expertise. Some early conversations can be seen in our Flavor Fluency video series. We went on improving the taxonomy and later building very large databases (e.g. 2.5 million recipes) of food and beverage flavors and their attributes. FGP has since been used as a backend to power smarter kitchen and flavor products.
- Joined the founding leadership team of Piaggio Fast Forward from 2015-2017. Led design and behavioral research through the 2017 launch of our award-winning Gita and Kilo robots. I left PFF in 2017 to focus on interests in flavor, design, and education.
- In 2014, rekindled a lifelong interest in flavor analysis and discovery from an earlier phase of life as a former champion taster. Created the Sensory Composition project in Italy, experimenting with flavor as storytelling.
- Joined the founding team that built Kering, Gucci Group, and Puma's 2025 Sustainability Strategy in 2010. The team of five included the CEO of Puma, CEO of Gucci Group, Head of Gucci Group Americas, and a UN conservation specialist and me. Our work fundamentally changed the fashion industry. We studied and changed the ways designers made sustainability-related design decisions in these companies, and worked to make it easier for them. Most notably, we created a 10 million Euro Material Science Innovation Lab that all Kering brands could confidentially access (even while competing in the marketplace) and the first ever environmental profit and loss (EP&L) statement. The EP&L was later rolled out for all Kering brands and inspired other companies to improve transparency and supply chain management decision-making.
Education: I completed my PhD at Cambridge University, visiting fellowship at Stanford University, and postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, studying innovation success and failure at IDEO and Fortune 100 companies. My research focused on how top design teams can reduce their 70% failure rate. Before that, I earned a Masters in architecture from the University of Cape Town and a BS in psychology and a BA in economics from the Barrett Honors College at ASU.