Innovation Forum 2013: Engaging Design

Day One Highlight

What do a musician, semi-pro soccer player and a physicist have in common? They enjoy creating prototypes for life-changing, world-changing products. They push the technological boundaries beyond anyone’s wildest imaginations (except theirs), then reel their audience in by proving what they’ve created can become reality.

Innovation Forum Day 1 Highlight Jonathan Cluts, UW Bothell alumnus and Director of Consumer Prototyping and Strategy at Microsoft Corporation, describes the importance of his interdisciplinary team.

In the opening session of the 2013 Innovation Forum, Jonathan Cluts, Director of Consumer Prototyping and Strategy at Microsoft Corporation, describes leading such an interdisciplinary – or ensemble – team. Cluts says he does not hire to a blueprint similar to what one might find in most large corporations. Instead, he hires with an eye to design, a hiring practice that produces creativity, passion, and impressive employee retention rates. Cluts says his 10-person ensemble consists of individuals with computer science degrees, but they self-identify their expertise, “The idea is that we collectively work on our projects and that each person has unique skills and perspective that they bring to the project.” Cluts says he encourages ensemble members to tap into their passions and that gets them excited. One might think of one of their most famous projects, the Microsoft Home, which is so full of working prototypes and futuristic concepts that many children and some adults might just think what happens inside is magic. Each ensemble member may own a piece of that project, but the process is collaborative, and the diversity in thought and expertise is not only celebrated, it is respected.

When asked what intrinsic values are required in his ensemble members, Cluts said storytelling is a skill required to do the job well and curiosity, “You have to be curious or you will not succeed.”

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