Wednesday, December 14, 2011

GROUP DISCUSSION -- TOPICS

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Group Discussion Tips (GD)
A group discussion (GD) is a simulated exercise.  The note attempts to present a few tips on GD and how to handle them to ensure a positive outcome.
Here's how most group discussions work:
Normally groups of 8-10 candidates are formed into a leaderless group, and are given a specific situation to analyze and discuss within a given time limit.
  • The group may be given a case study and asked to come out with a solution for a problem.
  • The group may be given a topic and asked to discuss on the same.
A panel will observe the proceedings and evaluate the members of the group.

Objective
One needs to know what one's objective in the group is. A good definition of your objective is - to be noticed to have contributed meaningfully in an attempt to help the group reach the right consensus. What does this essentially mean?
  1. The first implication is that you should be noticed by the panel. Merely making a meaningful contribution and helping the group arrive at a consensus is not enough. You have to be seen by the evaluating panel to have made the meaningful contribution. What does that mean in practice?
    • You must ensure that the group hears you. If the group hears you, so will the evaluator. That does not mean that you shout at the top of your voice and be noticed for the wrong reasons.
    • You have to be assertive. If you are not a very assertive person, you will have to simply learn to be assertive for those 15 minutes. Remember, assertiveness does not mean being bull-headed, arrogant or aggressive.
    • And most importantly, you have to make your chances. Many group discussion participants often complain that they did not get a chance to speak. The fact is that in no group discussion will you get a chance to speak. There is nothing more unacceptable in a GD than keeping one's mouth shut or just murmuring things which are inaudible.
    • Participate in as many practice GDs as possible before you attend the actual GD. There is nothing like practice to help you overcome the fear of talking in a GD.
  2. The second important implication is that making just any sort of contribution is not enough. Your contribution has to be meaningful. A meaningful contribution suggests that
    • You have a good knowledge base
    • You are able to put forth your arguments logically and are a good communicator.
    • The quality of what you said is more valuable than the quantity. There is this myth amongst many group discussion participants that the way to succeed in a group discussion is by speaking loudly and at great length. One could not be more wrong. You must have meat in your arguments.
      Therefore, think things through carefully.
Always enter the room with a piece of paper/pad and a pen. In the first two minutes jot down as many ideas as you can.
When you jot down points, keep these in mind. If it is a topic where you are expected to take a stand, say for example, "Should India sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty?" note down points for both sides of the argument. It will be useful on two counts -
    • One, if you do not start the GD and are not amongst the first five speakers and find that everyone in the group is talking for the topic, then it makes sense to take the alternate approach and oppose the topic even if you initially intended to talk for the topic.
    • Second, it helps to have knowledge of how group members who take a stand diametrically opposite to yours will put forth their arguments and be prepared with counter arguments.

  1. Everybody else will state the obvious. So highlight some points that are not obvious. The different perspective that you bring to the group will be highly appreciated by the panel. Some pointers on being relevant while having a different perspective are:
    • Be careful that the "something different" you state is still relevant to the topic being debated.
    • Can you take the group ahead if it is stuck at one point?
    • Can you take it in a fresh and more relevant direction?
  2. The last implication is that you must be clearly seen to be attempting to build a consensus.
    • Gaining support or influencing colleagues is the mantra adopted by many a successful Business Leaders.
    • Nobody expects a group of ten intelligent, assertive people, all with different points of view on a controversial subject to actually achieve a consensus. But what matters is "Did you make attempts to build a consensus?"
    • The reason why an attempt to build a consensus is important is because in most work situations you will have to work with people in a team, accept joint responsibilities and take decisions as a group.
    • You must demonstrate the fact that you are capable and inclined to work as part of a team.
Group Discussion(GD) - Dos and Don’ts
The tips given below are applicable in any GD. The only difference between most other GDs and the GDs conducted during campus recruitments is the intensity of the competition.
  • 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.
  • Don't 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 else's 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.
  • Don't lose your cool if anyone says anything you object to. The key is to stay objective: Don't 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 our friend here 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 their alertness and presence of mind, problem-solving abilities, ability to work as a team without alienating certain members, and creativity.
Group Discussion(GD) - Skills Evaluated
Group discussion is an important dimension of the selection process. Any organization  requires students to work with others for effective functioning.

In today's context, the educational institutes and organizations are interested in team players rather than individual contributors. During the Group Discussion, the panel essentially evaluates the candidate's potential to be a leader and also his/her ability to work in teams. Remember that organizations are typically on the look out for candidates who will inspire to lead and succeed and for that you need to be a good team player.

Here is a sample list of skills assessed during a group discussion:

Leadership skills:

Ability to take leadership roles and ability to lead, inspire and carry the team along to help them achieve group's objectives.

Example: To be able to initiate the group discussion, or to be able to guide the group especially when the discussion begins losing relevance or try to encourage all members to participate in the discussion.

Communication skills:

The participating candidates will be assessed in terms of clarity of thought, expression and aptness of language. One key aspect is listening. It indicates a willingness to accommodate others views.

Example: To be able to use simple language and explain concepts clearly so that it is easily understood by all. You actually get negative marks for using esoteric jargons in an attempt to show-off your knowledge.
Interpersonal skills:

This is reflected in the ability of the individual to interact with other members of the group in a brief situation. Emotional maturity and balance promotes good interpersonal relationships. The person has to be more people centric and less self-centered. Listening skill is an important requisite.
Example: To remain cool even when someone provokes you with a personal comment, ability to remain objective, ability to empathize, non-threatening and more of a team player.

Persuasive skills:

Ability to analyze and persuade others to see the problem from multiple perspectives without hurting the group members.
Example: While appreciating someone else's point of view, you should be able to effectively communicate your view without overtly hurting the other person.

Problem solving skills:

Ability to come out with divergent and offbeat solutions and use one's own creativity.
Example: While thinking of solutions, don't be afraid to think of novel solutions. This is a high- risk high-return strategy.

Conceptualizing skills:

The ability to grasp the situation, take it from the day to day mundane problem level and apply it to a macro level.
Example: At the end of the discussion, you could probably summarize the findings in a few sentences that present the overall perspective.

Group Discussion(GD) - Common Mistakes
Wise men learn from others mistakes, while the less fortunate, from their own. Here's a list of the most common mistakes made during group discussions:

Emotional outburst

Simran was offended when one of the male participants in a group discussion made a statement on women generally being submissive while explaining his point of view. When Simran finally got an opportunity to speak, instead of focusing on the topic, she vented her anger by accusing the other candidate for being a male chauvinist and went on to defend women in general.

What Simran 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 rest of the team.

Quality Vs Quantity

ASHOK 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 the other candidates got together to prevent him from participating in the rest of the discussion.
  • 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 team's success." Domination is frowned upon.
Egotism Showing off

Ramakant was happy to have got a group discussion topic he had prepared for. So, he took pains to project his vast knowledge of the topic. Every other sentence of his contained statistical data - "20% of companies; 24.27% of parliamentarians felt that; I recently read in a report that..." and so on so forth. Soon, the rest of the team either laughed at him or ignored his attempts to enlighten them as they perceived that he was 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.
Such a behavior indicates how self-centered you are and highlights your inability to work in an atmosphere where different opinions are expressed.

Get noticed - But for the right reasons

Nandi Varman knew that everyone would compete to initiate the discussion. So as soon as the topic - "Discuss the negative effects of India joining the WTO" - was read out, he began talking. 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 had benefited by joining WTO, only to be stopped by the evaluator, who then corrected his mistake.
  • False starts are extremely expensive. They cost you your employment. 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 one such mistake, unless you have a great sense of humor.

Managing one's insecurities

Archana was very nervous. She thought that some of the other candidates were exceptionally 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 remain silent.
  • 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 are 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.
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·  is china a threat to Indian industry
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·  What is the effect of movies on youth. is it good or bad)
·  Present state of Indian Cricket team
·  Advantages of Co-education.
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·  Is peace and non-violence outdated concepts?
·  Is Globalization Really Necessary?
·  What shall we do about our ever-increasing Population?
·  Corruption is the price we pay for Democracy.
·  Foreign Television Channels are destroying our culture.
·  The rise of regional blocs threatens independent nations like India
·  Is dependence on computers a good thing?
·  Should the public sector be privatised?
·  Religion should not be mixed with politics
·  Multinational corporations: Are they devils in disguise?
·  Public sector is more a hindrance than help to promote socialism.
·  Inflation is inevitable in our developing country.
·  The policy of reservation is a legacy of the British and it has done more harm than good.
·  Free market is a prerequisite for growth.
·  To develop India has to empower women.
·  State is the biggest violator of human rights.
·  Joint family is a blessing in disguise
·  Women cannot successfully combine both career and home
·  Money is required to earn more money.
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·  Nice Guys Finish Last
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·  Business And Ethics Can't / Don't Go Together
·  Nothing Succeeds Like Success
·  Secessionism In The North-East: Who's To Blame?
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·  Age and Youth: Experience And Young Talent
·  East Is East & West Is Where All The Action Is': Mark Twain
·  Freedom Of _Expression And The State Authority.
·  Is India moving away from a secularist state?
·  Role of women in development
·  Kids today are not what they used to be
·  Casteless India - A pipe dream
·  Should Trade Unionism be banned in India
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·  Indian bureaucracy - foundation strengths or colonial hangovers?
·  In India, the whole is less than the parts - Do we lack in team spirit?
·  Generation X - Drivers of our future or are they our lost souls?
·  "Dot.com" companies - Is there room for everyone?
·  All the world is a stage....
·  when managers become Hamlets... 

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