A Hyper Island Master's Project

Better Teamwork in China

Field Guide & Conversation Cards for Creative Teams
From locals, Chinese returnees, foreign-born-Chinese, to foreign expats, the diversity of the creative industry in China offers one of the most challenging landscapes for teamwork. In general the concept of teamwork remains an abstraction, as few studies on effective teamwork have crossed borders to China.
What is it? Better Teamwork in China is a field guide sharing what we know about effective teamwork and how might we apply it to China, delivered in concise text for everyday reference. Who is it for? Team leaders and members working in China's creative industries, especially in the design and advertising sectors. How was it done? Trends, methods and challenges on teamwork are derived through academic research, industry practice, and interviews with 20 industry leaders. So what? Overriding team structure, vision, roles, responsibilities, resources and other conditions, this guide singles out psychological safety — a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking — as the strongest predictor of team effectiveness, and the "north star" toward better teamwork in China's creative industry. No really, now what? Conversation cards are companion tools adapted from Hyper Island team development sessions and learning behavior models that increase psychological safety.
Table of Contents

As with most discoveries, this one begins with a problem. As part of my job I often found myself managing teams, a role that I had to learn on the fly. This story takes place in Beijing, but might be similar to yours.

So what is a team? What is teamwork? What makes a team effective? Why does it matter? Who are the people that made it matter? This chapter lay the foundation of what we talk about when we talk about teamwork.

Culture, it's been called "a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma." National and organization culture set the context for effective teamwork. I take a look at what that means for China.

I talk to twenty industry leaders for their views on teamwork in China, exploring the current trends, challenges they face, and methods they use. Copious notes and transcription highlights later, patterns and themes emerge.

Extracting from my learnings from effective teamwork, China's cultural context, and interviews with the industry, a curious concept called psychological safety manifests itself as an important framework that is applicable to China.

How do we turn theory into action, talk into practice? Adapted from Hyper Island team development sessions, here I introduce a prototype of conversation cards that can be used for better learning behaviors and greater psychological safety.

Does it work? Do people talk? Is it weird? I test my ideas with a creative team for a day of team culture session and assess how far a conversation can go in China.

If I learn anything from this project and experience, it is that endings should usher better beginnings. Here are seven learnings gleaned from my reflection journal, Evernote blurts, and between the lines on the making of this project.
Adapted from Hyper Island team development sessions and learning behavior models that increase psychological safety,
Better Teamwork Cards start the right conversations for your team at the beginning, midpoint, and end of your project.
Who is Qing Qing?
About the author

I was born and raised in Tianjin, China, city of millions, and moved to a small town in the American midwest at age nine. Since then, my experience working in New York City and Beijing draws from this state of in-betweenness. Hyper Island, a creative business school where design thinking, digital strategy, and team development go hand in hand — deepened my knowledge on understanding how teams work. During that time, I have spoken to a wider audience on my experience with teamwork in China at The Future of Work London and a narrative of the Chinese Internet in the last decade for SheSays.

My personal website is qingqing.co.
— What's going on with the mountain imagery?
I'm using Tilda to create this project and the mountain image came with the template. It felt "just right" after going through my alternatives of beehives, tree root, or a messy design studio desk. In China, the renowned poets, politicians, or philosophers (sometimes they are all three at once) have a habit of wandering into nature in order to pause, reflect, and unknot the hardest questions. This project is all about that. All headers photos are apart of Creative Commons, and will be credited at the footer.
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