Confessions of a serial GD/PI flopper - Part 2 (Group Discussion / Written Ability Test)

  • Group discussion is fun, "IF" you are sitting as a panel member! For many of us, GD is scary enough to add some nightmares in our dream of pursuing a good MBA program. Many institutes now replaced Group Discussion with WAT (Written Ability Test) and essays. Now that’s a relief... Really? Before going any further, let’s take a look on why we need a GD/WAT in the first place. GD or WAT (Written Ability Test) gives an opportunity to assess the candidate's capability to organize and present his/her thoughts under pressure. When you are asked to write/discuss on a topic which is just given to you and also within a limited time frame, pressure naturally builds up. And it is enough for a poor mortal to forget basic grammar and group manners. I attended GD thrice in my "travels to TISS" and this article is about what I learnt from my group discussions and from the discussions with the group after the GD...  I believe this article will help the WAT/Essay angle too as the purpose of both is in the same line.  :)

    Some people just have what it takes to organize and put their thoughts in an impressive manner; any day; any topic. But not all of us are blessed in that way. If you belong to the elite group of IIMpressive people, don't read further; instead write one article! :) For others, there are mainly two major areas where a GD/WAT can get dirty.

    1. Difficulty in finding good points to write/discuss
    2. Difficulty in presenting the points confidently & correctly

    1. Difficulty in finding talking points:

    once you are given a topic, make a basic skeleton of your opinion/thoughts. How easy you can build the framework depends on various factors like your familiarity with the topic, how well you are read and so on. In case of abstract topics co-relating the words will help you to get some starting point. Like for the topic "Geography is History" how will you frame your thoughts..? Geography deals with features of the earth, distribution of human activities etc.. History deals with past events. so if we can co-relate distribution of human activities (economic/political/social/business) based on the location (geography) is among past events (history) we can get many talking points like advancement in communication, globalization, cross-border relations etc.. :)

    Once you are done with your basic frame, try to remove A-B-C from it.  Here, A is Assumption; B is Blaming and C is Complaining. In case of GD, if you are not able to come up with a basic frame, then listen to others and remove A-B-C from their framework.

    A- Assumptions

    Avoid Assumptions in your thoughts as much as you can..  Every opinion/hypothesis needs to build upon some data and references.  Sadly, this important aspect is missing in most of our GDs/Essays... support your idea with data, reference or even personal experience. Build a good foundation for your theory with verifiable data and this helps you to look like a credible person to the panel. Sounds good right... it is :)

    During one GD we were given a topic "Is Economic growth a real indicator of prosperity". Lot of points was discussed like how economic growth means more jobs and more revenue. The current imbalance in wealth distribution, Social conditions etc. Then one guy shared a reference to the concept of Gross national happiness which is used in Bhutan. It measures quality of life in a more holistic way than just economic indicators. He owned the GD with this reference as the discussion was then based mainly on the possibility of adopting the same concept in Indian situation.

    B- Blaming

    Try to avoid Blaming anyone or anything in your writing/discussion. If possible take up the responsibility for solving the problem in hand and that opens a lot of possibilities. So when you get a thought that our current political system is hopeless, think about how you are responsible for this. In this case 'you' translates to a voter. So these corrupt politicians will point to irrational decision making of majority of voters... which leads to poor social/economic conditions of majority of these irrational voters which again leads to other grass root level issues like unemployment or caste divide. Once you hit the root cause you can find the most effective/efficient solution for the problem in hand. In this case may be a good education system in place (not just schooling but education). How YOU can help building a better learning environment in the country and so on.This approach demonstrates that you have the quality to handle a difficult situation than just passing it to someone else. This will give you a capable person tag which is a very important role (and sadly rare) in a business environment.

    On a lighter note people who use this strategy often start with Mahatma Gandhi's quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world"  :D

    C - Complaining

    Avoid complaining. If you see an issue, try to find a solution and then share the "issue - solution" combo. If you cannot find a solution then silence is a better than complaining.  You don’t want to look like a cribbing person to the panel. It doesn’t work!

    2. Difficulty in presenting the points confidently & correctly

    Sometimes we formulate great thoughts in our brains... but when it comes out we will hurt someone, mostly ourselves! How to avoid this common pitfall? Simple! Ensure P-Q-R in your thoughts. Here, P - Perspective, Q - Quality, R - Respect.

    P - Perspective

    Before starting talking/writing you need to build a point of view. You need to define what is your position regarding the topic and this will be the corner stone of your thought process. This gets tricky here. If you bring a non-conventional perspective to your thoughts, that will be great. You don’t have to go with the crowd or be politically correct.. If you have a new perspective for the topic and if you are confident about the A-B-C level of your theory then go ahead and win the crowd. This is a high risk - high return area.

    Do you know why people fight in GDs? Because in a 10 member GD, may be 8 will try to present the same points. So they are in a hurry to make their point before someone else does. But when you come up with something unconventional then the group will listen to you and may take it forward from you. Similarly if your essay brings in a fresh approach with a different perspective, your panel will love to read it and hopefully you will get some questions in your interview regarding the same.

    I would like to share one more aspect regarding perspective. If you are not very much sure about your opinion then try to avoid YES/NO stands. Instead try Promising/Concerns. Because once you say YES/NO then you should have the courage of your conviction. A promising concept can always have concerns and vice versa. So you will have more flexibility in your strategy... Changing a YES/NO to a NO/YES is not that great unless... well not that great anyway.

    Check out this video and it you will get the point I am trying to make

    Q - Quality

    We can talk/write whatever we want and as much we want, but it makes sense only when it adds value to the given situation (in our case the topic). Make sure your thoughts are relevant to the topic in hand and also ensure that it (facts/figures/reference/perspective) can be used to make a positive difference.

    R - Respect

    Always Respect other people's opinions or at least respect their right to have an opinion. If your way of presenting thoughts is not helping the positive dynamics of the group or not allowing a resistance-free reading then it may blind the panel to rationally judge the quality of your thoughts. Don’t use abusive language... don’t interrupt when someone is trying to make a point... don’t point fingers... maintain a good tone... manage your posture and most importantly be positive.

    Good luck & Cheers!

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