Friday, February 3, 2012

The 10Cs of Group Discussion

The 10Cs of Group Discussion
Entrance test, group discussion and personal interview are the three universal steps of gaining admission into a management program. The first one is entirely in our internal locus of control and the outcome is directly dependent on our efforts and intellect. However, the second and the third phases consist of external elements and stimulus beyond our control. But, the most challenging part of surmounting the entrance test obstacle is the group discussion session. There are number of other participants equally eager to make the mark and the uncertainty of the topic which will be thrown open for discussion.
Here are 10 specific pointers on which one can rely on to build a strong podium for success.
1.      Concept – The time allocated for group discussion is limited thus even lesser time for each participant to put forward their point and make a difference. It is imperative that the person who grasps the discussion topic fastest and understands the basic concept gets the edge of being the first mover off the block.
2.      Clarity – People often grasp the topic well but are unable to form a clear pattern of explanation in their mind. The topic at the outset seems very simple and straightforward but while trying to articulate the points for discussion we often find ourselves wanting. Clarity of thought and forming precise points are extremely crucial and is directly related to the next C.
3.   Communication – The heart of group discussion is communication. The strength of communicating effectively depends on the previous two points – understanding the concept and having clarity of thought. It is imperative that being persuasive and pleasant in communication and putting forward ones point will make the person dominant and desirable in the discussion. Being loud, brash and condescending while making useless inputs will assure alienation in the group and reduce the chances of making the cut. Remember that all group discussions covertly aim for a harmonious assent or dissent. It is not a television debate where everyone is speaking out of turn and making no sense at all.
4.      Core Issues – Mentally analyze the core issues of the topic that is being discussed. Here let me briefly introduce the Fishbone diagram of cause and effect. All issues have some core causes which can be further broken down to secondary factors. Do not dilute the discussion with weaker issues while missing out the hardcore ones. Focus on the 20 percent issues which make up the 80 percent of the case. One solid path breaking point is worth much more than five miscellaneous ones.
5.      Concentration on Contemporary Points – Try to make modern relevant points which fit the context rather than taking out instances from history which have been much rehearsed and rehashed over the years. Come up with something new and inspiring, something original or innovative such that others do not have preset arguments to counter your points. It will catch everyone off guard.
6.      Commonality – What are the common points that are surfacing in due course of the discussion? Where do your points fit in? Commonality ensures that there is some kind of cohesion in the group’s thought process and thus, opens a chance for reaching some kind of consensus in the end. Make note of these points where the group is agreeing.  
7.      Counter-views – There will be counter-views in every discussion and few of them will be crucial. Are the counter views stronger? Which are the major counter-points? The strength of the counter-views can become a deciding factor in the outcome of the GD.
8.      Concurrence – What is the state of the discussion towards the end? Is there any kind of concurrence of views? Does the discussion seem to be headed towards a logical end or there is wide gap or disarray in the views? There is a possibility that participants would like to stick to their ground as a strategy to project them as original or opinionated. They might stand by their points without trying to concur even though the argument is just and valid. This is a negative trait. Simultaneously, concurring easily without presenting your own views might project a herd mentality and lack of analytical skills.  
9.      Creativity – People usually pursue the tried and tested path. This makes them boring and predictable in their discussion pattern. Everyone likes to hear something new and untested. Creativity is important in driving the whole discussion into a particular direction by understanding group dynamics and identifying the leaders, opinion makers, followers, fence-sitters and the hollow vocalists. (You will also fit into one of these criteria) Creativity can be one of the ways how you use the diverse views in course of the discussion to maneuver it in your favor without seeming to be overtly manipulative. But creativity can be tricky and risky.
10.  Closure – All discussions need not end with a proper conclusion like a mathematical problem. But there has to be some inference, learning or future course of discussion. Closure is not summarizing what has been argued in the course of the discussion but the emphasizing on the underlying knowledge that might have been gained or the insight acquired through the process.
Focusing on these 10Cs could be useful in cracking the GD juggernaut.  

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