Department of Management & Organizations
School of Management, University College London
I am a doctoral candidate at the department of Organisations & Innovation, School of Management, UCL. My research focuses on team leadership and creativity and how they involve an interplay between cognitive, situational, and behavioral factors. Specifically, my two primary research streams investigate (1) how network attributes of team leadership dynamics influence team effectiveness and creativity and (2) the processes by which creative collaborations unfold. My research incorporates quantitative and qualitative empirical methods, as well as pure theoretical development.
Before UCL, I received a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Zhejiang University and a Research Master's degree in Business Administration (Human Resource Management) from Zhejiang University. I also attended the International Exchange Program at Erasmus University of Rotterdam.
I highlight some of my awards and honors here. Please download my CV to view a concise summary of my skills, achievements, and interests inside and outside my academic work.
- “Showcase Symposium” Co-chair, MOC/OB/OMT Divisions, Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management.
- Nominee, the Brilliant Research-based Teaching Award, Student Choice Awards at UCL
- OB Division Doctoral Consortium, Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
- Best Paper Finalist, MOC Division, Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
- Kwanjeong Educational Scholarship for three years
- 100 Best Dissertations of 2012 Undergraduates, Zhejiang University
My research examines team leadership, group dynamics, and creativity. Specifically, my two primary research streams investigate (1) how network attributes of team leadership influence team effectiveness and creativity and (2) the processes by which creative collaborations unfold. My research incorporates quantitative and qualitative empirical methods, as well as pure theoretical development.
A Network Perspective of Leadership Dynamic
My first research stream investigates how team leadership networks affect group processes and outcomes. As leadership has become less hierarchically structured in many organizations, leadership models have begun conceptualizing leadership as a team-level relational process in which leaders and followers are fluid roles that any member can take on in a given situation. This emerging non-hierarchical, distributed view of leadership is commonly referred to as shared leadership. The shared leadership literature adopts the "leadership as networks" paradigm and uses social network analysis, such as density and centralization to reflect the "sharing" patterns of leadership ties between team members.
Specifically, I investigate two different ways of sharing leadership: dynamism and multiplicity and their effects on team effectiveness and creativity. This research shows two ways of sharing leadership have different costs and benefits in teams and extends the previous research by revealing the negative side of shared leadership.
Beyond understanding the actual leadership structures in teams, I also investigate the social perceptions of team leadership structures and its implications on Stakeholders' decisions making. This work indicates that leadership structure affects how teams are perceived by observers or stakeholders, and shows that leadership structure is an important component of people's beliefs about leadership.
Moreover, I investigate one crucial situational factor: environmental uncertainty, which is especially salient during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how it influences team members' leadership behaviors. This research reveals that the formation of leadership relationship depends on the circumstances under which it is operating.
A Process View of Creativity
My second stream of research attempts to understand the process of team innovation, especially how teams generate and evaluate novel and useful products, services, and processes. The prominent research has focused on the individual-level or team-level antecedents or conditions of team creativity. However, little research has paid attention to the creative processes, which is the key for organizations' consistent innovation.
First, although extreme time pressure has been found to stifle creativity at work, my research shows some creative workers can thrive under extreme time pressure. In a qualitative study using the observation data from a reality show "Project Runway" and interview data from fashion designers, I reveal creative workers use a series of paradoxical practices to navigate novelty and usefulness of the product and at the same time to deal with the extreme time pressure.
Second, my co-authors and I propose a novel framework that moves beyond the linear stage model of creativity that has been used for decades. We theorize the creative processes in terms of liminal creative practices. This new perspective provides a theoretical advancement for team creative processes and offers a roadmap for future research by uncovering those areas where processes and practices have yet to be fully described.
Finally, I am also interested in creativity evaluations. Prior research has found that diverse perspectives and information stimulate the generation of novel ideas in teams. However, I argue that informational diversity also promotes discussion practices that highlight the uncertainty of ideas, which leads teams choose familiar ideas over the novel ideas.
Publications & Working Papers
Teaching and knowing that students are learning, engaged, and inspired in my classroom brings me a great deal of joy. My ultimate teaching goal is to help students evolve into astute consumers of information and great team players and leaders.
First, my teaching and my research inform and motivate each other. I incorporated my research about share leadership into my classroom of Leading High Performance Teams. In return, my hands-on mentoring on students' team projects inspires my research by providing me opportunities to observe interactions, conflicts, and leadership behaviors in the student teams.
Moreover, I believe students learn better when they feel invested and they retain more knowledge when they have some ownership over their learning. Therefore, I strive to make the classroom experience interactive using various methods (e.g., cases, in-class exercises, videos, discussion groups, online forums, and individual/group projects).
University College London
- Managerial Decision Making, Seminar Instructor, 2019 SEQ: 4.5/5, Nominated for the Brilliant Research-based Teaching Award as part of the Student Choice Awards, 2019 (Undergraduate’s)
- Leading High Performance Teams, Guest Lecturer, SEQ: 4.56/5, 2019-2020 (Master's)
- Leading High Performance Teams, Teaching Assistant, 2017-2018 (Master's)
- Organizational Behaviour, Teaching Assistant, 2018 (Master's)
I was very encouraged and motivated by the feedback and evaluations from my students. Here are a few sample student comments from my course evaluations:
Verena and Wenxin are very good and committed lecturers. They were very patient and helpful throughout the term.
I want to say thank you to Colin and Wenxin for bring such lovely and useful course to us. We have learnt a lot, experienced a lot, and this course really help us to knockout teamwork issues that we might experience in the future.
Lots of opportunities of teamwork and useful guidance from Colin and Wenxin.
Colin and Wenxin were fantastic! Absolutely loved the teaching methods and really appreciated the enthusiasm both lecturers had for the course.
I also feel that everything we covered over the sessions will be of great use for my first job as a junior auditor at KPMG starting next December because teamwork will be a huge part of my job.
I really enjoyed that Colin and Wenxin did their best to enable us to have the best experience possible considering the new online format of the course. They were always available and ready to help which I appreciated a lot. I think that they did a great job and that I really got to have the whole experience of the module.
I enthusiastically seek out opportunities to present my research. I have presented my research at several international conferences, such as the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, and the Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for Group. I will also try new and inventive ways of communicating my research to a wider audience to increase impact and influence.
- Leadership attributions: The role of environmental uncertainty and communal leadership schema. the 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Boston, MA.
New Perspectives on Processes and Practices in Creative Work. Symposium presented at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Boston, MA.
“Showcase Symposium,” MOC/OB/OMT Divisions
- How diversity amplifies uncertainty and reduces group preference for novelty. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research, Lisbon, Portugal
- Situation-based leadership attributions: How and why environmental uncertainty affects leadership attributions in self-managing teams. Paper presented at the 14th Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research Conference, Lisbon, Portugal.
- Temporal dynamics of affect and creative practices. Paper presented at the Creativity Collaboratorium, Storrs, CT.
How should leadership be structured? Lay theories of single and shared leadership structures. Paper presented at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Chicago, IL.
Finalist: “MOC Division Best Paper Award”
- The effects of influence shifts on team performance: An exploratory study. Paper presented at the 12th Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research (INGRoup), St. Louis, MO.
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