TOWS Matrix for Effective G.D. performance.

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Group Discussion has become a necessity during the selection process for educational institutes and jobs these days. What you and I feel amongst those 8-12 people at the discussion table is similar. We all wonder, where do these judges get such weird topics from; why are they so concerned with our knowledge of general awareness; where do these unknown group members produce content that appears valid; how do people sometimes form a sub-group in between a discussion; how do I make a point and get selected?

I can understand your situation and empathize with shy people who feel extremely uncomfortable in such situations. Before I jump on to the theory I would like to share with you one of my experiences; where the topic for GD was ‘Medical services in the West are better than the East’. Now at the beginning of the GD, I was totally confused along the entire group whether the topic was about West of India or West of the World. I totally gave up on the idea of initiating and let GD reach a stage of confusion where even the judges were perplexed. Hence I came up with the stance of bringing the group back to the topic and discussing whether it was for the world or India specifically.

Thereafter, I talked about the equipment, techniques and technology of the western countries and Ayurveda and other local medicine therapies of the western India. Thereafter I mixed the technology of the west with operational efficiency of our country and thus moved on to discuss about aping the west by the eastern countries. Also, I remembered getting attention, acceptance and honored all everyone who agreed with me and decided these points to be suggestive and not decisive. Result was clear selection!

Let us now approach Group discussions with a fresh perspective with a different theory that I suggest through my MBA experience and the lessons in strategy during my MBA course.

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First of all you need to understand your strategic position when a topic is given to you. Did you understand and comprehend the topic? Did you understand all macro and micro factors running in the economy that relate to this topic? Further, understand whether you have any information on the same. Do you have facts and figures about the topic? Are you having some debatable or relevant content to deliver?

Coming to the matrix, internal factors are those that remain in your control like your awareness and knowledge structure, your posture, your fluency, content delivery etc.; whereas external factors are those that are out of your control but you can respond to them by adapting yourself to conditions like the nature of competitors, opportunities to speak, initiate, intrude, respond and questioning.

If you have concrete knowledge then it becomes a strength that can be questioned by a person who is unaware, which is an opportunity to succeed. If you don’t have complete knowledge it is a weakness but absolute absence of knowledge is threat and weakness combined. Now let us go to the strategies:

SO: If you have knowledge and content on the topic, it leads to strength. When you have strength, you can take the advantage of initiating the discussion without a judgment to bring people to comment, discuss and agree with your idea. Once people start discussing, use the opportunities to go slightly technical, develop and express fresh views and points, spread your content over the designated point, segregate relevant and secondary content from your knowledge and bring the same in front with humility.

WO: When you are weak on the content and knowledge, use opportunities merged with others and make extensions of their points that are worthwhile but not avoidable. Your point must be relevant and value adding rather than just a ‘me too’. Acquire from past learning and others’ points of view and build your fresh thoughts. Exploit their competency, be efficient and quickly learn how to articulate your limited content. These will build an image that you are growing continuously even if you are unaware of the topic; are ambitious, can partner with colleagues and others if required and can prove you can be a good group member in a team.

ST: Since you are aware of the topic/content just be careful to express it articulately. There will be people who might be more mature and aggressive than you but it will be wise for you remain subtle. If someone tries to fight or argue don’t get into a one-on-one fight with them, focus on a group consensus. You are there in a group to form opinions not to have one-on-one agenda and dialogues. Do not get aggressive or overpowering in the group as it forms a poor impression. Get people to agree to your point subtly and with humility without offending anyone. You are not there to show your knowledge but the agreement you can win with when you are in a group. Do not fight at any cost!

WT: Now when you are weak and under threat of having no content and being attacked as the non speaker or silent one in the group; focus on grasping the points others make and form a conclusion for the entire group mentally. Nod your head at times when you understand and listen but don’t overdo this. Don’t fiddle with your pen, yawn or scratch your body. Let others argue, talk and discuss, as you have nothing concrete to say. Hence, towards the end, when only a minute is left, intrude and express that you want to conclude on the group’s behalf. Conclude without adding anything from your end but focusing on the points where the group had come to a consensus. Just in case, anyone intrudes and claims you wrong, let them; and you finish with the conclusion. Such intrusion will make them faulty not you. Hence you would be judged as a good listener and a decision maker who understands and respects everyone.

Group discussions are conducted to understand your stance on contingencies in a group so that organizations or institutions match their values, expectations, beliefs, thinking with yours and see if they need someone like you or not. Remember in GD, you don’t fight a battle for survival but are being judged by representatives of the company. Think and prepare your stance according to TOWS matrix and experience the difference!

Contributed By : Chayan Jain (Class of 2011-2013, IBS Hyderabad).

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