Dr Woo Ka Shing
Associate Professor,
Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration

Creative Thinking and Storytelling in Research: Interview with
Dr Woo Ka Shing

In this issue, Dr Woo Ka Shing, Associate Professor in the Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration, shares his experience in writing a presentable research proposal. His research proposal — entitled ‘Deciphering the myth of Chinese emotional display: The impact of Chinese cultural values and norms on emotional labour strategies and customer service evaluation’ — was granted from the Research Grants Council’s Faculty Development Scheme. This title, which highlights culture and Dr Woo’s business background, tells an important point about his success: ‘Surprise your readers by expanding boundaries beyond your expertise’. Dr Woo would also like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Joseph Lee (School of Nursing and Health Studies) and Mr Makin Fung (School of Arts and Social Sciences) for their help in this research project.

Formulating research ideas: Curiosity and novelty

Dr Woo had little idea on the research topic. ‘It was simply curiosity that drove me to develop a new research study in my area of interest.’ His study was originated from a global customer survey related to the smiling index and his concern about Hong Kong’s customer service. After a thorough literature review, he discovered a brand new perspective on emotional labour and redefined smiling customer service in the Chinese context. ‘What made us stand out from the other 327 studies of emotional labour were an interest in our surroundings and a novelty in our empirical studies.’

Writing a research proposal: Tell a story to entice the readers

Dr Woo emphasized the importance of storytelling in writing a research proposal. Comparing writing a research story to building with blocks, he stated that ‘The blocks should be interesting enough to attract readers.’ Being an expert in marketing, he embodied storytelling in his proposal. There are five points to note in telling a story: Simplicity, surprise, concreteness, emotions and credibility. First, research ideas should be simple so that the readers can resonate (e.g. Everyone knows that smiling influences our perceptions on customer service.). Second, there should be a surprise element in the research ideas to entice attention (e.g. Smiling is vital to the success of customer service. Yet, Hong Kong has an unexpectedly low score for smiling. Are there other facial expressions replacing smile in the Hong Kong/Chinese context that people from other cultures do not know?). Third, the research story should be concrete with a solid literature review. Papers should be carefully chosen from leading journals to work out a theoretical background that supports the proposed research. Fourth, where relevant and possible, the story can be narrated in a way that elicits an emotional response from the readers. ‘Writing a research proposal or paper is a rational process. However, we can make it more appealing.’ Lastly, the research story should be credible. Mind mapping is useful, and the storyline should be backed by empirical research and a sound methodology. ‘It is crucial to include a detailed description of your method of analysis in the proposal. Let the reviewers know how you are going to do it and convince them that you can do it’.

Developing a research career: Lifelong learning

Despite the heavy teaching load, Dr Woo finds great interest and satisfaction in research: “Time is not a problem. What matters most is your passion. If you are enthusiastic about your topic, you can definitely find time for your research.” He recommended colleagues to carry out research on a topic that they are curious about. ‘If you are a novice researcher, teamwork is essential. Having a research partner who is interested in the same topic can greatly enhance the research.’ As a final remark, Dr Woo stated the importance of being open-minded and humble in the process of learning and developing one’s research career.



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