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Group dynamics

After clearing the written test, up next for MBA candidates is the group discussion round. We bust some common myths here

education Updated: May 22, 2012 16:16 IST
Parag Chitale

While some IIMs have done away with the group discussion (GD) round, IIMA, IIMB and IIMC will be holding theirs over the next few weeks. Purpose of the GD
* To test your communication skills
* To test how you respond to different situations
* To test your knowledge in different subjects
* To test your ability to analyse different topics
* To test your team skills

Remember, the GD is not a test of your language but a test of your communication skills. You need not be a very glib speaker or a very articulate person to succeed in a GD. As long as others are able to understand what you are tying to communicate, it matters little whether or not you speak perfect English. Here are some myths about this round, which may help in your preparation

Myth: The more I speak, the better it is
It’s not how long or how much you speak, but what you speak that’s important. You should have the ability to enter a GD frequently, with short but important contributions (not long speeches).

You should know when to keep quiet and listen to others, as this is the key.

Myth: The louder I speak, the better it is
This is purely situational. In a calm GD, where everybody is able to contribute comfortably, you may be seen as being aggressive if you were to speak loudly. On the other hand, in a very chaotic GD or a ‘fish market’ GD, you may be required to speak loudly to make yourself heard. Generally, others in the group may get intimidated and not readily accept you and your views if you speak loudly without any reason.

Myth: Starting a GD will earn me points
Not always. A wrong start may even work against you. Hence, it is extremely important that if you choose to start a GD, you should be sure about the topic and what you are going to talk. As a golden rule, do not take a stand at the beginning. One should ideally describe the topic and define what all aspects could be discussed in the GD at the start.

Myth: I cannot change my stand in the middle of a GD
Many feel that changing their opinion in the middle of a GD indicates fickle mindedness. This is false. Understand that the GD is not a debate where you are supposed to take a stand and defend it at any cost. Ultimately what matters is how you substantiate and justify the different points of view.

Linking your topics
There are two aspects to a GD — content and process. You can master the content by being well-read and creative. Many of us lay too much emphasis on content and forget to get the process right. Both are equally important.

While participating in the GD, we must understand the most common thought process of the group about the topic and try to go beyond the routine framework to expand the topic. For example, if the topic given is ‘Sonia Gandhi should be prime minister of India’, then most of the participants might talk on her nationality and other cultural issues.
Instead, talk about what role the prime minister plays, what skills, and qualities are needed to be a prime minister. Focus on the good side about India, the challenges and Gandhi as a person, a professional, politician and manager. Link these domains to put forth your points.
— Parag Chitale, CPL Pvt Ltd

The author is founder of CPL Pvt Ltd, Mumbai