Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Art of 'CP'

Most of us get by through school and sleep through college without opening our mouths in the classroom. But as you inch closer to graduation, start applying for an MBA or go for job interviews you discover the need for a whole new skill. The skill of holding forth in 'group discussions'.

The fear of opening your mouth in public and saying something 'stupid' or saying nothing at all is so high that it has spawned a whole new industry. Yes, there are loads of coaching classes now which hold mock GDs where people can practice shouting each other down, making sure they speak 'enough' but not too much, get noticed but not for the wrong reasons etc etc.

Now in case of an MBA your tryst with 'group discussion' does not end after getting admission. The next two years are spent in a few hundred more. At institutes where the 'case study method' is favoured, students become acquainted with a new term - class participation or 'CP'.

Some of the institutes helpfully provide name tags on desks so that profs can actually call you out by name and bark,"So Ms so and so - what do you think?" But in practice, it doesn't happen that often. Because the day is usually saved by folks who specialise in 'arbit CP'.

These are the handful of souls who have an opinion to offer on any and every subject. While a few, very few have a point to make, most speak for the sake of speaking. Hence the term 'arbit CP'.

Every class has its kings and queens of arbit CP. Ours was awarded the title 'Bubka' (after the erstwhile Soviet athelete who broke new records every time he jumped)

All this comes in handy at the time of summer and final placement interviews when most companies once again hold GDs.

Then, you join a company and what do you find? You still need CP. Every time a meeting involving more than 4 people is held you need to make a point every 12.5 minutes or so, just so the Boss knows you are a valuable resource to the company, especially when awake.

A few years down the line, you are now VP-sales and guess what, CP is more crucial than ever. You will be invited to 'conclaves' along with 6 other VPs where you will all discuss the changing face of the Indian consumer in class C, D and E towns with special reference to their milk boiling and wife swapping habits.

What's more, some of these debates and discussions are now televised. In fact there is a whole new genre of programming which can be called 'CP television'. This consists of getting 4 or 5 or 6 people with real or imagined expertise on a subject to get together and yak about it in a studio.

When that gets boring, occasionally, the venue shifts to a heritage building.

'CP television' can be interesting - or deadly dull - depending on the subject, the experts and the audience. If the moderator lets things go out of hand it can resemble a 'fish market' - like the average b school entrance GD. At other times, the discussion is as cold and dead as the fish on sale at that market...

And the reason I am inspired to write all this? My own recent tryst with yak-yak-television - as a panelist on the MTV-CNBC Budget Fundas 2006 show.

Overall, it was an interesting experience and I learnt many things. Including the fact that I still have a long way to go before I master the art of speaking on 'CP television'.


  1. After reading the first two paras I could make out that the timing of this post had to do with the show. I happened to catch the same on CNN-IBN today. Am I right in saying that Omkar Goswami did the maximum CP because of being an economist?

  2. guess you'll also know about "concept CP". like during some useless guest lectures of a useless first year course, we used to have "movie CP". you've to try and include the names of movies in the CP you put. and you get points for it.

    went a long way in making those useless classes lively.

  3. Cyrus Broacha spoilt it with his inane lines and by constantly speaking over the others.

  4. Nice concept, "CP tv", I guess within few years we'll see this in reality.

    The Ignorant's Blog

  5. And I thought doing CP in GDs for IIM interviews was completely pointless and that nobody every does it in 'real' life.. *sigh*

  6. "These are the handful of souls who have an opinion to offer on any and every subject. While a few, very few have a point to make, most speak for the sake of speaking. Hence the term 'arbit CP'."
    hey! i think even YOU are into CP esp after the IIM C where do you hang your underwears thingy?!?!

    and i think even now i am doing CP!
    Life is a CP!

  7. Yeah, I caught up with the show at noon today. It was pretty boring. I mean the way it was handled and moreover, there was very little on the budget for which the whole show was meant. And, as always, Mr.Omkar Goswami was at his best, making those astute remarks whenever needed.

  8. I quite enjoyed the show though as someone else in the comment box pointed out one kept going off topic. Mr Omkar Goaswami was one of the best participants, I thought you and Sabeer Bhatia were pretty good, esp when I realised he hadn't read the budget at all. I felt sorry for Soha Ali Khan and Shaan because they both looked more decorative than useful, although they did try once in a while to say something relevant. I'd say you've defly mastered the art of CP speaking. You looked cute too.:-)

  9. And there are few DCPs (Desperate for Class Participation) -- a breed which usually sleeps in the class/doesnt have any idea about the case/topic, suddenly wakes and starts shouting/CPing..

    The good thing about this breed is that they are egoless/harmless creatures who have to shout to make their presence felt and once they *believe* that they have suceeded, they are back into their dreamy world!!



  10. The trouble quite often with CPs is that they encourage active participation of mouths rather than of minds and pay short shrift to the fine art of listening; a much endangered human faculty.

  11. Hey Rashmi,
    Saw you on "Face the nation" debate yesterday on CNN-IBN. Was a pleasure to see the real Rashmi Bansal on Live-TV. Your points were well made and pretty articulate. Good job Overall !!!


  12. very interesting...another side of the story (i like this better) a world where there is absolute information asymmetry between the group of people involved, CP can be a very useful control tool..the case is simple...its always better to say something and let the world know whether you understand or do not understand, as against staying in the background..the funda is some information is better than no information...cheers

  13. your post reminded me of this Maha CPer in my section. He would paraphrase and repeat everyone's points toward the end of the class, and come out looking like winner. we were all so fed up of him. eg: A: hence, the sun sets in the west.
    MCPer: As you all are aware, and after a lot of observations and linear thinking, it cannot be averred that the sun sets in the west". Ha!

  14. Argumentative Indians

  15. interesting

  16. One advantage of CP that I see is that you get to form opinions about things...and that means thinking over them to convince yourself about the opinion. The otherwise sleepy class can be made interesting by triggering a thoughtful CP.

  17. yeah saw 'The Apprentice' - was soo boring after a few episodes. It all runs the same way, just the runners are differet at times :|

  18. cp-class politics

  19. Arbit CP's fun. But fish markets are a nuisance.

  20. Check out the arbit CP on this blog

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