What is Group Discussion?
"Group" is a collection of individuals who have regular contact and frequent interaction and who work together to achieve a common set of goals. "Discussion" is the process whereby two or more people exchange information or ideas in a face-to-face situation to achieve a goal. The goal, or end product, maybe increased knowledge, agreement leading to action, disagreement leading to competition or resolution or perhaps only a clearing of the air or a continuation of the status-quo.
"Group Discussion", popularly labelled as GD, is a methodology used by an organization (company, institute, business school, etc.) to gauge whether the candidate has certain personality traits. In this methodology, the group of candidates is given a topic or a situation, typically given some time to think about the same, and then asked to discuss it among themselves for a specific duration (which may vary from one organization to another). As in a football game, where you play like a team, passing the ball to each team member and aim for a common goal, GD is also based on teamwork, incorporating views of different team members to reach a common goal.
Why is a "GD" conducted? What are the various parameters of evaluating one's performance in a GD?
Organizations conduct GDs to find out whether you possess the critical qualities/skills to contribute effectively to the goal accomplishment process. Here are some of the important personality traits that a candidate should possess to perform well in a GD:
Taking initiative is indicative of your ability to impart direction to the group and define the key issue(s) along which the discussion has to progress. The three "Cs" which rank you high on this parameter are clarity (the main points to be discussed), content (the vertical depth in each point) and confidence. The "Key Word Approach", wherein you start with defining the dominant words in the topic and then develop subsequent constructs, can help you to initiate effectively.
For example, in a topic like "Should Republic Day celebrations be redefined?", the key words are "Republic" and "redefined". Thus, a good strategy can be giving a backdrop against which this day is celebrated, then graduating to the way it is celebrated and finally talking about ways and means of redefining (if at all). If demonstrated properly, this skill gets you in the visible limelight and reflects your ability to break the ice and evoke a discussion! However, if mishandled (e.g., you may start off on a high note and then abruptly recede into an eerie silence), it puts you in an embarrassing position!
Knowledge is reflective of your ability to have an opinion on issues and concerns of contemporary relevance and hence your ability to connect with different aspects of the environment (economic, political, business, social, etc.). It assumes even more relevance for a fact-intensive topic like "Indian Economy in the post WTO regime"; Here, knowledge becomes a sharp differentiator and helps you to leverage a strong competitive advantage. Unless you have the requisite knowledge of the given topic, your discussion runs the danger of being shallow and superficial. Being well versed with current affairs and issues of concurrent importance can help you to do well along this parameter.
This basically demonstrates the skill to strike a balance between individual excellence and group performance. A person scoring high on this parameter will be more probable to work in groups and hence contribute effectively to organizations.
How to enter the GD when others are speaking?
- Sender-Receiver Interface: Research on communication has established that people in groups tend to behave differently in comparison to a one to one situation. The simple communication model requires a sender-receiver interface, where the sender sends the desired message to the receiver, who in turn gives feedback to the sender to complete the process. Even in this simple process, the message which the sender sends out may not necessarily be the one that receiver receives. Also, the sender's body language may cause the message to be interpreted differently and the receiver's own biases may be in operation.
- One Point Strategy: In a group, there is one sender of a communication but several receivers, and this further complicates matters. When the group members react differently - it becomes extremely important for the sender of the message to gain control and ensure that the discussion proceeds along his/her way, if the thread is lost then the discussion shifts over to another topic and is out of control of the actual sender. One way to do this is to state only one point at a time and elaborate on it. If two or more points are stated by one speaker, only one point is taken up for further discussion. If in a discussion, you find an idea or thought being misinterpreted, then intervene and clarify your message.
- Don't Provoke: While in a group discussion - it is extremely important not to provoke the ire of the group towards you; your behavior towards the members of the group should be such that it makes them feel comfortable with you and your ideas. Referring to a point made by an earlier speaker and building on your point will help you not only score points with the other participants, but also with the selectors. If possible, refer to the participant by name (in case the participants have introduced themselves at the onset).
- Diffuse Tension and Take Charge: Hostile behavior towards a member further breaks down the communication process. If you find a member of the group is hostile towards you, keep calm. One way to diffuse the tension would be to say, "Well, I do not agree with my friend here. Let us agree to disagree". While the group is thinking and yet to start on the discussion, you can establish yourself as the leader and lay a few ground rules for the discussion to proceed you could indicate the time to budget for each of the stages.
Your contribution in a group discussion is evaluated from a dual perspective:-
- Roles for your contribution:
You can assume the role of a Leader (somebody effectively moderating the discussion/ evoking a positive response from fellow peers), a Fountain Head (somebody constantly fuelling the discussion with novel ideas) or a Piggy Rider (somebody who rides on an idea already floated in the discussion but not leveraged properly; this is the last thing to do lest you dwindle out of the discussion and it requires a gift of the gab and significantly high group skills).
- Nature of contribution:
This can be viewed as Positive (somebody able to create a sense of camaraderie amongst peers and able to get the group to discuss the topic in a constructive and positive way) or Negative (somebody who dampens the spirit of the group and impedes the enthusiasm of the group to participate and discuss).
This indicates your ability to effectively flowchart your thought process and analyze the topic in a comprehensive manner. It reflects your ability to construct logical arguments and structure the discussion in a streamlined manner, avoiding random forays.
- Lateral Thinking: How to be creative in GD:
This reflects your ability to think on your feet and contribute on a creative and unorthodox tangent. It is even more relevant for an abstract topic, where the scope to view the topic from an avant-garde angle is proportionately more (e.g. in a topic like "red and blue", somebody who translates this into a coke (red) and pepsi (blue) warfare or discuss the marketing strategies of kingfisher (red) and jet (blue) or harp on the gender differences as mentioned in John Gray's "Men are from Mars (red) and women are from Venus (blue)", will definitely stand apart.
This evaluates the candidate's ability to connect with the group and is measured from a dual perspective - verbal and non-verbal. While verbal communication scores the student on parameters like fluency, articulation and modulation, the non-verbal quotient defines his/her adequacy vis-&-vis body language, gesticulation, eye contact and posture.