Research and Innovation Experts to Wrap Up Design, Engineering and Commerce Fall Lecture Series

As part of the development of a unique College of Design, Engineering and Commerce curriculum, world-class innovation experts are visiting campus this year to participate in discussions around innovation.

Experts in research and innovation Natalie Hanson, Ph.D., global senior director at SAP, and Harry West, CEO of Continuum, will wrap up the fall Design, Engineering and Commerce lectures Thursday, Nov. 18 and Thursday, Dec. 2, respectively. The lectures will be held in the Paul J. Gutman Library Media Classroom at 11 a.m. and are open to the University community. RSVP to

Research Methods in the Business Context
Thursday, Nov. 18
In her presentation, Hanson will share some of the opportunities and challenges that arise in bringing social sciences research methods to the business setting. She will describe how she secured approval for the cross-disciplinary User Experience (UX) function she now manages, as well as the ongoing effort that is required to justify the value of User-Centered Design (UCD) methods in an engineering-driven corporate culture.

Hanson will share some of the messaging that her team has developed over time, as well as their ongoing efforts to bring user-centered methods into the organization’s project management toolkit. She will also share some case studies from the work her team has conducted internally since 2005. In general, the scenarios will demonstrate the ways in which research and design methods need to be thoughtfully selected in response to changing business direction and emergent stakeholder requirements – and how collaborative interdisciplinary teams work together to make that happen.

Hanson has been researching the intersection of business strategy, technology, social science and design for more than 10 years. In her role at SAP, Hanson is responsible for identifying emerging trends from market data, executive messaging and user-experience research, and using those insights to create and execute innovative and pragmatic programs aligned with corporate strategy.

In 2002, she founded a listserv called anthrodesign.  This active online community is composed of over 2000 members worldwide who are interested in engaging in dialogue about cross-disciplinary collaboration, with a particular focus on the use of field research (ethnographic) methods in the business context. 

Hanson’s research explores the ways in which institutions respond to macro-economic, industry, and regional trends, and how those organizational changes affect the lives of employees. She received an M.A. in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University Seattle, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Temple University.

The Continuum of Innovation
Thursday, Dec. 2
11 a.m. to Noon
West is an experienced innovation practitioner: engaging with clients, understanding global consumers and designing innovation. He guides the strategic direction and global growth of Continuum. During his presentation, “The Continuum of Innovation,” West will discuss his work integrating cross-disciplinary teams at Continuum, including engineers, MBAs, designers, ethnographers, and others.

Continuum’s  innovation teams combine a range of disciplines and practices to create broad, new experiences for people, and it is the breadth of innovation rather than any one narrow technical achievement that is the breakthrough. The design of new experiences calls for the ability to communicate across a broad range of disciplines and exercise strong critical-thinking skills around the human experience.

West has worked with a wide variety of brands in a broad range of industries, including American Express, Andersen Windows, AstraZeneca, BBVA, BMW, Fidelity, Master Lock, Procter & Gamble, and Sprint. For P&G, he led teams that helped to create Swiffer® and ThermaCare®, and the new design language for Pampers diapers. Under his leadership, his teams have received IDEA, ID and Red Dot awards, and numerous design and utility patents.

West is a 16-year veteran of Continuum and was named chief executive officer in 2009. Prior to joining Continuum, he was associate professor of mechanical engineering at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he taught design and control.

Continuum is a global innovation design firm with expertise in designing experiences that improve people’s lives, in small ways and large, and drive business innovation. Continuum has offices in Boston, Los Angeles, Milan, Seoul and Shanghai.

Natalie Hanson photo credit: Amy Gleason
Harry West photo credit:

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