Theses Doctoral

How Chinese Business Leaders in the Tutoring Industry Learn to Think Strategically in a Time of Crisis

Chen, Ruohao

Chinese business leaders suffered from the crisis of COVID-19 and the Double Reduction Policy, and used various strategies and learning practices to survive the crisis. The purpose of this modified exploratory multicase study was to explore how leaders in the Chinese tutoring industry made sense of the crisis of the Pandemic and the Double Reduction Policy and learned to think strategically in a time of crisis. The study not only uncovered how Chinese business leaders used different strategies to deal with a crisis and learned to think strategically while adapting to the new environment but also brought implications and insights to business leaders about effective strategies and learning practices to cultivate strategic thinking in a complex and fast-changing world.

The study addressed the following four research questions:

1.How did the business leaders in tutoring companies make sense of the complexities of the crisis of COVID-19 and the Double Reduction Policy?
2.What strategies, if any, did the business leaders develop to deal with the crisis?
3.In what ways, if at all, did the business leaders learn to think strategically while dealing with challenges?
4.What other factors helped or hindered the business leaders’ learning to think strategically in a time of crisis?

Qualitative semi-structured interviews (critical incident interviews included), surveys, and a focus group discussion were used to collect data from 15 Chinese business leaders from the tutoring industry. The study generated four findings:

Finding 1: The crisis negatively impacted the participants and their companies at different levels, but it also served as a valuable learning opportunity for their long-term development.
Finding 2: The participants developed strategies to deal with the crisis at personal, organizational, and social levels.
Finding 3: The participants learned to think strategically from direct experiences, indirect experiences, and two thinking processes—systems thinking and metaphorical thinking.
Finding 4: Policies and relationships were two outstanding factors that hindered or helped their learning to think strategically.

These findings indicated that (1) unprecedented crises like COVID-19 and the Double Reduction Policy can bring people benefits and valuable insights, (2) business leaders can develop critical strategies by combining their own and others' experiences and strategic insights into dealing with crises, (3) business leaders can use informal learning practices and deliberately use them to cultivate their strategic thinking, and (4) business leaders need to combine learning and action for cultivating strategic thinking capabilities. Lastly, business leaders should consider the influence of policies and relationships in their strategy formulation and learning process.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
May 31, 2023