Teamwork, Intensity and a Microphone



“Unforgettable in every way and forevermore that’s how you’ll stay.”

Unforgettable, Irving Gordon


What a crazy week; one of the most intense and rewarding of my life! It was challenging on so many levels; culture shock, exhaustion, language barriers, the quarry and its’ devastation, the food and its’ revelation; our group and its’ disappearing team members. But in the end, it all came together, as it always does.

By the time I had been to the crazy print shop and back (complete with indoor spitting) Ahmad had whipped up a website for our proposal: So cool!

I was proud of our pitch; I think it really embodied so many of the design thinking principles I have learnt in U.lab. Sadly, I don’t think it was as successful with the local delegates for the same reason. Perhaps they could have benefited from a stoker…

Sigh – what a relief! Well done to all the teams, I think we all succeeded in transforming our challenges into achievements and it was so great to sit on the lawn and sip that evening beer and celebrate! What a delightful way to end the week, with the sun shining and a feathered hacky-sack tapping from toe to toe.

Of course it did not end there… Several rounds of dumplings and beers later we ended up at KTV – karaoke extravaganza in Dalian city, complete with mirrored corridors and uptight bouncers patrolling them; a crazy place to top off a crazy week, and disgrace ourselves in the comfort of our own private concert hall.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Co-opolis. A special thanks to the girls that made me feel so welcome: Ashily, Cindy, Adele, Yaya, Betty and Xanadu. I can’t wait to see how Sydney blows your minds in the same way that Dalian did for me!


[CW4] State Change in Teamwork during Processes of Prototyping and Testing



The previous evening with our early mark and subsequent relaxation, albeit with flooding sewage across our feet – or over my boots and on my skirt until someone pointed it out – while drinking cheap rice wine, in a street stall, by the police van just outside the campus, was much appreciated come Thursday morning. On Thursday the intensity upped a gear.


Whilst I accidentally slept in on the Thursday morning, I didn’t get back to bed until the sun was rising on the following Friday morning. The state change from the night before of play, back into work on the Thursday morning, had the impact of a really effective stoker. On Thursday morning, after a doubly strong dark coffee and some packaged sweet French bread, I was ready to prod the sparks of our project until it burst into flames – in a positive, non-pyromaniac sort of way.


The rest of the team had already begun work. Sketches were beginning to convey an idea of what our development would look like. I sat down and continued to develop our business canvas. Work persisted in earnest.


State change impacted teamwork in our prototyping through changing methods of collaboration and types of intelligence used. This took place through changes in mediums of communication, from verbal and written language, to images and other modes of representation. In addition, an effective 5×5 to create a brand and logo caused us to communicate kinaesthetically and artistically through role plays and bodily movement. These changes positively influenced our teamwork. Cooperation increased with a better understanding of each other’s thoughts, feelings, impressions and ideas of the development. This was achieved through the state change’s impact on communication. Testing did not take place as we did not have the time to return to our empathy interviewees at this stage. However outside opinions through discussions did occur with other teams and staff. Somehow the day wore on and sunset began to hint at its arrival.


Red bull arrived. Darkness followed.


Plastic tubs of curry and rice appeared for our team, thoughtfully organised by one of our DUT teammates. Industrial espionage was undertaken. A very sickly sounding and thinking Nath Wiltshire provided some tables spread out with edible goodies purchased nearby. Bananas, apples, tea bags aplenty, biscuits, instant noodles and more were laid out for our consumption. Bananas were the first to go.


The night wore on.


In the early hours of the morning, Max (Xiangyu) Ma, a UTS student on another team, valiantly offered to be my knight escort back to the hotel. I needed to pick up my laptop and bring it back to the workshop. We sang songs under the moon. We planned a surprise return to the workshop a little too effectively, terrifying one of my DUT teammates to the extent that I later apologised, by pulling strange faces in the window until someone saw us to let us in.


Finally, as the sun began to rise, Cristian and I headed back to the hotel, with the prospect of more work to be done in the morning, but good progress having been made. Our DUT teammates, we found out later, had stoically continued throughout the night.

Intensity, Representation and the Running Man





“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost


For all the communist architecture, DUT was a gorgeous campus; it provided a welcome refuge from the frenetic chaos of the street, it was full of magnolia and blossom trees budding in anticipatory spring and there were the most amazing sculptures everywhere.

The “running man” just outside the Arts and Architecture faculty, is amongst one of my favourite sculptures of all time; depicting China’s first Olympian in all his freeze-frame, rippled glory.

Thursday was a marathon day. Post lecture, we all devoured our noodle soups, hoping the hot broth would stave away the inevitable cold to follow. Little quail eggs, made surprise bursts of yolk-y goodness which were a delight. And then, like the running man, we were back to the classroom where the intensity escalated into the night.

As team members left with family commitments, more came to our aid. The wonderful William sketching free-hand the most incredible vistas of our proposal and all the while, I was at his computer stressing and cursing as I used Photoshop and Illustrator in Mandarin to design our brand concept for Ecopark!

It was fantastic to see different mediums bring our vision to life, the quaintness of hand-sketching and the innate talent of a great (and humble) artist.




[AY3] Intensity in Representation during Processes of Ideation and Design




Today intensity began to underpin the tasks begun in the workshop. We continued to ideate the business model and design of the development. We began work on the stakeholder diagram and business canvas. We began the architectural and landscape design of the development. In the evening a lecture was given to DUT students and staff, both those involved in the workshop and other interested individuals. Jo Jakovich talked about u.lab, biketank and the Entrepreneurship Lab subject. As E-Labbers we UTS students each gave a short explanation of one aspect of the E-Lab. I spoke on prototyping. At the conclusion of the lecture, we relished an early mark and the opportunity to unwind after an intense few days.


This morning the deadline for the final pitch on Friday began to loom for all of our team. We developed an outline of the tasks that lay ahead and assigned roles and time deadlines. We ideated in block modes and continuously as questions arose. We began to design our respective aspects of the development, our aspects dependent upon our skills. When questions arose representation quickly became the dominant form of communication across state change barriers as well as across tasks.


A quick piece of paper or a notepad would be passed over to a teammate, with a colour, a word, a diagram, a sketch placed upon it. A nod or a pause would indicate a response. If a pause, a new representation would be created in response or else a short conversation would take place. The intensity factor played a large part in this. We were all aware of the tasks that lay ahead of us and we all had a desire, both individually and importantly, as a united team, team six, to succeed. On occasion verbal communication was the most effective medium, but often low fidelity representation was most suitable, especially given time restraints. Quick questions were required, with quick answers given.


In the evening intensity was significant for me personally in its impact on representation. Earlier in the day we had been assigned our aspect of the E-Lab to speak about during the lecture. However, perhaps due to the intensity of the work undertaken for our project or perhaps due to a lack of sleep on my own part, I had not realised that the lecture was that evening. Suffice to say, when I sat down in the lecture theatre and Jo announced that we would be speaking after she gave her talk, it came as a surprise. A short whispered discussion followed with some teammates, before Jo gave her talk. As I stepped onto the slightly raised stage to speak I utilised acting as a form of representation to convey my ideas; that is, acting to hide my lack of planning and practice, and acting to hide my nerves as I stood looking out at a room full of expectant faces. I said my words on prototyping, and I think I got the essence of the process and its importance across to those listening.


By the end of the lecture we were ready to go out and unwind, which worked out well, because the intensity of this day turned out to be nothing compared to the next day.  



Mood Swings



Day 3


[AZ3] Our intense ideation process today can be described below:

5 minutes brainstorm of the team’s ideas about how to use the quarry in Dalian represented by one word and one sketch. Followed by 5 minutes brainstorm of the connecting factor of those ideas represented by an overarching top part of a2 paper with notes and sketches. Followed by 5 minutes brainstorm of how to visually present that concept by sketching it. Followed by 5 minutes of 3-word goal for project: Recycle-Connect-Future Value. Followed by 5minutes brainstorming of post it notes stuck next to those 3 words(e.g. recycle what? Connect who and what? What kind of value?). Followed by 5 minutes of connecting each part to create 4 groups by moving post it notes around, which created 4 categories. Followed by 5 minutes of prototyping each category to be a functional type of space. For instance: recycling plastic to build bridges to create better communication. Followed by intense discussions about filtering this information with our previous empathy work and research of the user’s needs and desires for this space.  


My brain was on a high during that time as these spurts of ideas motivated me to do more. Only when I realised I was stuck on not knowing what questions to ask, my energy levels went down. My physical body needed some attention. I needed a new representation/solidification/articulation prototype exercise. Maybe a change of state was what I needed, as I started to become less creative with my questions. 


Took a bit of a break, jumped around, laughed a bit, then went onto more ideation sessions! This time, brainstorming, discussions and post it note relationships were not as important representations except for brainstorming about brands and their value propositions. We played Chinese whispers to communicate our value proposition within our group and observed how it was perceived and communicated in different ways. Then we acted out a role-play and a jingle to solidify what we stand for. We had only short moments to prepare so we had to be extremely focused, articulate with few words all of our complex thoughts. For some reason we all managed to do it with great success! Actually, the reason might lie below:


This frequency and speed of idea articulation in a variety of manners helped us focus instead of multitask and resulted in new ideas due to productivity. Then, when this solidification was shared between members, we bounced off each other’s ideas and linked them together to create newer or more developed, complex ones. I was surprised how much my energy levels were influenced by this intense process. As long as I was coming up with ideas, I was motivated to come up with more. Intense mood swings-maybe that’s just me.




Day 2 – “A picture is worth a thousand words”


For the past three days I’ve been thinking a lot about communication – it’s not one of those things you can not think about when you are in a foreign country and not only you do not understand people around you, but you can’t even read a menu or read a map. I never had this problem before, I never felt I could not make other people understand what I was after, what I needed, what I wanted to give. I naively thought that going from Milan to Sydney was a big step. But here in Dalian the more I am immersed in this new world and culture and the more I understand what it really means to travel “far way from home”.

The communication within my team is made easy by the fact that they all made the effort to learn English – I wonder how it would be if they didn’t. I have to say that this need to communicate and get my point across, has made me notice how much I can become addicted to pen and paper. Sketching always does the trick! It’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words” – and a great example of this is represented by the prototype we designed during the last phase of the 5X5 stoker we did in class before lunch. We all had great ideas and we all had our way of expressing them but due to our diversities we needed a little bit of planning before execution. It was great to see Micheal and I communicate on a piece of paper sketching rough concepts one on top of the other, adding value step by step – it was like a conversation where the leading actors were not words but lines. The outcome was great!


Another funny episode that just now comes to mind is my “pharmacy adventure”. Unfortunately I’m getting sick, to the point that I can’t breathe properly. After the stoker, instead of following my team for a rushed lunch I decided to go to the nearest pharmacy buy some medicine and a nasal spray. I was completely unprepared but after a good ten minutes acting to the pharmacist how I felt I was able to gather aspirin and cough drops – but no nasal spray. I thought I had no chance of success, but then I drew it and there it was! I was so proud of myself, and so were Betty and Xanadu seeing me come back with all I was looking for.

@ the site …

This afternoon when we went back to the site to speak to the locals for our empathy interviews, I really wanted to participate in the process, but the language barrier was to strong to hope that I could actually engage with the people. What I could do though, was buy a pack of cigarettes to offer to whomever had a few minutes to chat with us and I could also record on my iPhone all the conversations Micheal and Xanadu had.

While I was listening to the people speak, I was observing how they moved trying to guess their feelings about the questions they were being asked. I was very surprised to see that it was very difficult for me to read their body language – so different from mine.



The non stop, go go go, you can sleep when your dead day. (Intensity – AY2)


Talk about intensity,

Today was non-stop, beginning with a 5×5 that produced a physical prototype. To get there was bang,bang,bang. 

Anything in your head went down on paper, a post it note, transformed into a shape or was expressed in hand and face gestures.

25 minutes produced a refined direction that the group could present on, and use in upoming empathy work.


Doing the empathy work was tough, A quick hour of interviews with local residents (all in Mandarin) was an intense situation of not knowing exactly what was going on, forcing me to peice together information from gestures and expressions.

Following was another quick fire 45 minutes of video interviews at a a local shopping centre to gain a broader understanding of how local people view Dalian.

The intensity of the tasks brought out more gut reaction decision making and improvisation that would otherwise be squashed by having the time to think. Producing representations of ideas is best done on the fly by the seat of your pants.