Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanities GROUP DISSCUSSIONA group discussion can be categorically divided into three different phasesi. Initiation/ Introductionii. Body of the group discussioniii. Summarisation / ConclusionLets stress on the initiation and summarisationInitiation TechniquesInitiating a GD is a high profit-high loss strategy.When you initiate a GD, you not only grab the opportunity to speak, you also grab theattention of the examiner and your fellow candidates.If you can make a favourable first impression with your content and communication skillsafter you initiate a GD, it will help you sail through the discussion.But if you initiate a GD and stammer/ stutter/ quote wrong facts and figures, the damagemight be irreparable.If you initiate a GD impeccably but dont speak much after that, it gives the impressionthat you started the GD for the sake of starting it or getting those initial kitty of pointsearmarked for an initiator!When you start a GD, you are responsible for putting it into the right perspective orframework. So initiate one only if you have indepth knowledge about the topic at hand.There are different techniques to initiate a GD and make a good first impression:i. Quotesii. Definitioniii. Questioniv. Shock statementv. Facts, figures and statisticsvi. Short storyvii. General statement
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanities QuotesQuotes are an effective way of initiating a GD.If the topic of a GD is: Should the Censor Board be abolished?, you could start with aquote like, Hidden apples are always sweet.For a GD topic like, Customer is King, you could quote Sam (Wal-mart) Waltons famoussaying, There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company-- from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.DefinitionStart a GD by defining the topic or an important term in the topic.For example, if the topic of the GD is Advertising is a Diplomatic Way of Telling a Lie,why not start the GD by defining advertising as, Any paid form of non-personalpresentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services through mass media likenewspapers, magazines, television or radio by an identified sponsor?For a topic like The Malthusian Economic Prophecy is no longer relevant, you could startby explaining the definition of the Malthusian Economic Prophecy.QuestionAsking a question is an impactful way of starting a GD.It does not signify asking a question to any of the candidates in a GD so as to hamperthe flow. It implies asking a question, and answering it yourself.Any question that might hamper the flow of a GD or insult a participant or play devilsadvocate must be discouraged.Questions that promote a flow of ideas are always appreciated.For a topic like, Should India go to war with Pakistan, you could start by asking, Whatdoes war bring to the people of a nation? We have had four clashes with Pakistan. Thepertinent question is: what have we achieved?Shock statementInitiating a GD with a shocking statement is the best way to grab immediate attentionand put forth your point.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesIf a GD topic is, The Impact of Population on the Indian Economy, you could startwith, At the centre of the Indian capital stands a population clock that ticks awayrelentlessly. It tracks 33 births a minute, 2,000 an hour, 48,000 a day. Which calculatesto about 12 million every year. That is roughly the size of Australia. As a current politicalslogan puts it, Nothings impossible when 1 billion Indians work together.Facts, figures and statisticsIf you decide to initiate your GD with facts, figure and statistics, make sure to quote themaccurately.Approximation is allowed in macro level figures, but micro level figures need to becorrect and accurate.For example, you can say, approximately 70 per cent of the Indian population stays inrural areas (macro figures, approximation allowed).But you cannot say 30 states of India instead of 28 (micro figures, no approximations).Stating wrong facts works to your disadvantage.For a GD topic like, China, a Rising Tiger, you could start with, In 1983, when China wasstill in its initial stages of reform and opening up, Chinas real use of Foreign DirectInvestment only stood at $636 million. China actually utilised $60 billion of FDI in 2004,which is almost 100 times that of its 1983 statistics."Short storyUse a short story in a GD topic like, Attitude is Everything.This can be initiated with, A child once asked a balloon vendor, who was selling heliumgas-filled balloons, whether a blue-coloured balloon will go as high in the sky as a green-coloured balloon. The balloon vendor told the child, it is not the colour of the balloon butwhat is inside it that makes it go high.General statementUse a general statement to put the GD in proper perspective.For example, if the topic is, Should Sonia Gandhi be the prime minister of India?, youcould start by saying, Before jumping to conclusions like, Yes, Sonia Gandhi should be,or No, Sonia Gandhi should not be, lets first find out the qualities one needs to be a agood prime minister of India. Then we can compare these qualities with those that MrsGandhi possesses. This will help us reach the conclusion in a more objective andeffective manner.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesSummarisation TechniquesMost GDs do not really have conclusions. A conclusion is where the whole groupdecides in favour or against the topic.But every GD is summarised. You can summarise what the group has discussed in theGD in a nutshell.Keep the following points in mind while summarising a discussion: Avoid raising new points. Avoid stating only your viewpoint. Avoid dwelling only on one aspect of the GD. Keep it brief and concise. It must incorporate all the important points that came out during the GD. If the examiner asks you to summarise a GD, it means the GD has come to an end. Do not add anything once the GD has been summarised.Just reiterating the cliché that a Group discussion, or GD, as it is commonly called, is agroup process or a team building exercise does not help.As in a football game, where you play like a team, passing the ball to each team memberand aim for a common goal, GD is also based on team work, incorporating views ofdifferent team members to reach a common goal.A Group Discussion can be defined as a formal discussion involving ten to 12participants in a group.They are given a topic. After some time, during which they collect their thoughts, thegroup is asked to discuss the topic for 20 to 25 minutes.The GD process is used to assess a candidates personality traits.Here are some of the most important personality traits that a candidate should possessto do well at a GD:1. Team PlayerThere is great emphasis on this parameter because it is essential for managers to beteam players.The reason: Managers always work in teams.At the beginning of his career, a manager works as a team member. And, later, as ateam leader.Management aspirants who lack team skills cannot be good managers.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanities2. Reasoning AbilityReasoning ability plays an important role while expressing your opinions or ideas at aGD.For example, an opinion like Reduction in IIMs fees will affect quality can be betterstated by demonstrating your reasoning ability and completing the missing links betweenfees and quality as:Reduction in IIMs fees will result in less funds being invested on study material, studentexchange programmes, research, student development activities, etc.Moreover, it costs money to attract good faculty, create good infrastructure and upgradetechnology.With reduction in fees, less money will be available to perform these ,activities which willlead to deterioration in the quality of IIMs.3. LeadershipThere are three types of situations that can arise in a GD:~ A GD where participants are unable to establish a proper rapport and do not speakmuch.~ A GD where participants get emotionally charged and the GD gets chaotic.~ A GD where participants discuss the topic assertively by touching on all its nuancesand try to reach the objective.Here, a leader would be someone who facilitates the third situation at a GD.A leader would have the following qualities:~S/he shows direction to the group whenever group moves away from the topic.~S/he coordinates the effort of the different team members in the GD.~S/he contributes to the GD at regular intervals with valuable insights.~S/he also inspires and motivates team members to express their views.Caution: Being a mere coordinator in a GD does not help, because it is a secondaryrole.Contribute to the GD with your ideas and opinions, but also try and steer theconversation towards a goal.4. FlexibilityYou must be open to other ideas as well as to the evaluation of your ideas: That is whatflexibility is all about.But first, remember: Never ever start your GD with a stand or a conclusion.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesSay the topic of a GD is, Should India go to war with Pakistan?Some participants tend to get emotionally attached to the topic and take a stand either infavour or against the topic, ie Yes, India should, or, No, India should not.By taking a stand, you have already given your decision without discussing the topic athand or listening to the views of your team members.Also, if you encounter an opposition with a very strong point at the 11th hour, you end upin a typical catch-22 situation:~If you change your stand, you are seen as a fickle-minded or a whimsical person.~If you do not change your stand, you are seen as an inflexible, stubborn and obstinateperson.5. AssertivenessYou must put forth your point to the group in a very emphatic, positive and confidentmanner.Participants often confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness.Aggressiveness is all about forcing your point on the other person, and can be a threatto the group. An aggressive person can also demonstrate negative body language,whereas an assertive person displays positive body language.6. InitiativeA general trend amongst students is to start a GD and get the initial kitty of pointsearmarked for the initiator.But that is a high risk-high return strategy.Initiate a GD only if you are well versed with the topic. If you start and fail to contribute atregular intervals, it gives the impression that you started the GD just for the sake of theinitial points.Also, if you fumble, stammer or misquote facts, it may work against you.Remember: You never ever get a second chance to create a first impression.7. Creativity/ Out of the box thinkingAn idea or a perspective which opens new horizons for discussion on the GD topic isalways highly appreciated.When you put across a new idea convincingly, such that it is discussed at length by thegroup, it can only be positive.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesYou will find yourself in the good books of the examiner.8. Inspiring abilityA good group discussion should incorporate views of all the team members.If some team members want to express their ideas but are not getting the opportunity todo so, giving them an opportunity to express their ideas or opinions will be seen as apositive trait.Caution: If a participant is not willing to speak, you need not necessarily go out of theway to ask him to express his views. This may insult him and hamper the flow of the GD.9. ListeningAlways try and strike a proper balance between expressing your ideas andimbibing ideas.10. AwarenessYou must be well versed with both the micro and macro environment.Your awareness about your environment helps a lot in your GD content, which carriesmaximum weight age.Caution: The content or awareness generally constitutes 40 to 50 percent marks of yourGD.Apart from these qualities, communication skills, confidence and the ability to think onones feet are also very important. COMMON MISTAKESWise men learn from others mistakes, while the less fortunate, from their own.Heres a list of the most common mistakes made at group discussionsEmotional outburstMs XYZ was offended when one of the male participants in a group discussion made astatement on women generally being submissive while explaining his point of view.When she finally got an opportunity to speak, instead of focussing on the topic, shevented her anger by accusing the other candidate for being a male chauvinist andwent on to defend women in general.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesWhat she essentially did was to Deviate from the subject. Treat the discussion as a forum to air her own views. Lose objectivity and make personal attacks.Her behaviour would have been perceived as immature and de-motivating to the restof the team.Quality Vs QuantityMr. X believed that the more he talked, the more likely he was to get through the GD.So, he interrupted other people at every opportunity. He did this so often that theother candidates got together to prevent him from participating in the rest of thediscussion. Assessment is not only on your communication skills but also on your ability to be a team player. Evaluation is based on quality, and not on quantity. Your contribution must be relevant. The mantra is "Contributing meaningfully to the teams success." Domination is frowned upon.Egotism Showing offMr. A was happy to have got a group discussion topic he had prepared for. So, he tookpains to project his vast knowledge of the topic. Every other sentence of his containedstatistical data - "20% of companies; 24.27% of parliamentarians felt that; I recentlyread in a Jupiter Report that..." and so on so forth. Soon, the rest of the team eitherlaughed at him or ignored his attempts to enlighten them as they perceived that hewas cooking up the data. Exercise restraint in anything. You will end up being frowned upon if you attempt showing-off your knowledge. Facts and figures need not validate all your statements. Its your analysis and interpretation that are equally important - not just facts and figures. You might be appreciated for your in-depth knowledge. But you will fail miserably in your people skills.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanitiesSuch a behavior indicates how self-centered you are and highlights your inability towork in an atmosphere where different opinions are expressed.Get noticed - But for the right reasonsMr. B knew that everyone would compete to initiate the discussion. So as soon as thetopic - "Discuss the negative effects of India joining the WTO" - was read out, he begantalking. In his anxiety to be the first to start speaking, he did not hear the word"negative" in the topic. He began discussing the ways in which the country hadbenefited by joining WTO, only to be stopped by the evaluator, who then corrected hismistake. False starts are extremely expensive. They cost you your admission. It is very important to listen and understand the topic before you air your opinions. Spending a little time analyzing the topic may provide you with insights which others may not have thought about. Use a pen and paper to jot down your ideas. Listen! It gives you the time to conceptualize and present the information in a better manner.Some mistakes are irreparable. Starting off the group discussion with a mistake is onesuch mistake, unless you have a great sense of humor.Managing ones insecuritiesMs. A was very nervous. She thought that some of the other candidates wereexceptionally good. Thanks to her insecurity, she contributed little to the discussion.Even when she was asked to comment on a particular point, she preferred to remainsilent. Your personality is also being evaluated. Your verbal and non verbal cues are being read. Remember, you are the participant in the GD; not the evaluator. So, rather than evaluating others and your performance, participate in the discussion. Your confidence level is being evaluated. Decent communication skills with good confidence is a must to crack the GDs. Focus on your strengths and do not spend too much time thinking about how others are superior or inferior to you. It is easy to pick up these cues from your body language.
Dr. Kajli SharmaHumanities TIPS on Dos & Don’ts Be as natural as possible. Do not try and be someone you are not. Be yourself. A group discussion is your chance to be more vocal. The evaluator wants to hear you speak. Take time to organize your thoughts. Think of what you are going to say. Seek clarification if you have any doubts regarding the subject. Dont start speaking until you have clearly understood and analyzed the subject. Work out various strategies to help you make an entry: initiate the discussion or agree with someone elses point and then move onto express your views. Opening the discussion is not the only way of gaining attention and recognition. If you do not give valuable insights during the discussion, all your efforts of initiating the discussion will be in vain. Your body language says a lot about you - your gestures and mannerisms are more likely to reflect your attitude than what you say. Language skills are important only to the effect as to how you get your points across clearly and fluently. Be assertive not dominating; try to maintain a balanced tone in your discussion and analysis. Dont lose your cool if anyone says anything you object to. The key is to stay objective: Dont take the discussion personally. Always be polite: Try to avoid using extreme phrases like: `I strongly object or `I disagree. Instead try phrases like: `I would like to share my views on… or `One difference between your point and mine… or "I beg to differ with you" Brush up on your leadership skills; motivate the other members of the team to speak (this surely does not mean that the only thing that you do in the GD is to say "let us hear what the young lady with the blue scarf has to say," or "Raghu, let us hear your views" - Essentially be subtle), and listen to their views. Be receptive to others opinions and do not be abrasive or aggressive. If you have a group of like-minded friends, you can have a mock group discussion where you can learn from each other through giving and receiving feedback.Apart from the above points, the panel will also judge team members for theiralertness and presence of mind, problem-solving abilities, ability to work as a teamwithout alienating certain members, and creativity.