The Johari Window
In the 1950s large, complex and interdisciplinary projects started to emerge. It was therefore evident that new materials, methods and procedures had to be developed to ensure the success of these projects. This allowed for development of new concepts in the Socio-technical arena, which focused on the interdisciplinary project team and how to evolve and develop these teams effectively. In other words; the new complex and interdisciplinary projects paved the way for the soft skills and focus on behavior in individual and team development. As the projects became more complex, a need for structured and constructive communication arose.
The Johari Window was developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram in 1955. It seeks to foster and improve self-awareness by providing the user with different perspectives in relation to context, and can be used on, but are not limited to, an individual or team level. In order for a person, or a team, to grow and mature, they must seek information from the outside in order to uncover their strength and weaknesses. This can for example be done either by comparing oneself to another person or team (individual level), or by comparing the team to other teams (team level). When used and understood correctly, the Johari Window can help manage teams and individuals by creating an understanding of how they communicate, are perceived and present them self. For teams the Johari Window may result in a change of the group dynamic, as new information can be uncovered.
This article will start by introducing the reader to the history of the Johari Window, followed by an explanation of the four quadrants, how these interplay with each other and the 11 principles of change. The reader will then be introduced to ways of changing and broadening specific windows with feedback in order to become more self-aware.
The Johari Window was created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram in 1955, and have since been interpreted and adapted for many different use cases. The name Johari comes from the two authors, how decided to name this model after them self (JOseph and HARrIngton). In 1961 Joseph Luft described the Johari Window as "a graphical model of awareness in interpersonal relations" . It was originally designed to promote self-awareness and foster communication for development. Since the Johari Windows first saw the light of day, it has, by some, been used to gain a deeper insight into the world around us by analyzing knowledge and assumptions rather than individuals.
Any exchanged of information can be seen as communication. Communication is a vital part of ensuring the success of a given project, and can be provided as spoken, written, gestures and much more. The use of communication in an effective way, will help build bridges between individuals, groups and stakeholders, across different cultures, beliefs, backgrounds and more .
The Johari window can be applied for both groups and individuals. In many ways’ groups act like individuals, as the meaning of the quadrants stays the same, and in the fact that groups interplay with other groups in “intergroup relations” . The theory of the four quadrants should therefore be understood to be applicable for both individuals and groups alike.
The Four Quadrants
The Johari Window consists of four quadrants;1) Arena, 2) Façade, 3) Blind Spot and 4) Unknown, which together illustrates the relationship of awareness. The four quadrants are categorised into a matrix system with two viewpoint: self and others, and two elements: known and unknown. The Johari Window is often depicted in a way, where all of the quadrant have the same size. In reality, this is not the case, as the quadrant can change in size according to the amount of knowledge it reflects.
Loft refers to the first quadrant as the area of free activity. As seen in the Figure 1 this quadrant refers to elements known to both the self and to others.
As this quadrant hold the information known to all members, it is also referred to as the known, Open Self/Area, Free Area and Public Area. This is quadrant where we are most effective when talking about team work and other collaborations. A team should therefore seek to expand an arena for each of its members to become more productive in their work.
This quadrant holds emotions, information, learnings, context and more which the person is aware of but have not yet shared with others. This is also why this part of the window is referred to as the hidden self, hidden area or avoided self. There may be many reasons why the person have not shared this information with others yet, such as trauma, fears, missing trust or the context in which the person and the group is operating .
As the Façade hold information only know to the Self, it is possible to retrieve some of this information by asking relevant questions.: “I notice you were missing last Friday, is something affecting your work?” “You have done really well in (project planning), do you have prior knowledge about this?”
The Blind Spot is also referred to as the Blind Area and Blind Self. Loft defined the this quadrant as "where others can see things in ourselves of which we are unaware". This is also known to be a sensitive quadrant to some people, as they themselves are not aware of what elements resides here, while the people around them are.
There are many different ways in which, one may shed light on the Blind Spot. One of these methods can be by asking questions such as “What feedback did you get about your project participation? Can you use some of this feedback as development points?" Or “Do you realize that several people have tried to contact you in regard to the project?” .
The Unknown part of the window are defined as; "Netiher the individual nor others are aware of certain behaviors or motives. Yet we can assume their existence because eventually some of these things become known, and it then realized that there unknown behaviors and motives were influencing relationships all along" . In other words; even though the Unknown area is something we cannot see it can be assumed to exists as we know we can learn something new. Which is also why it is sometimes called the Mystery Arear. Examples of unknown elements are (but are not limited to); Unknown illness, natural ability which have not yet been uncovered and subconscious feelings.
The Unknown quadrant can be difficult to explore, as nor Self or Others possess knowledge in this area. But a manager can ask questions in regard to specific knowledge or skills to try to examine the Unknown quadrant. These questions may be similar to “Are there any skill you would like to develop?” or “Have you seen the new position in (Finance)? Do you think this might be of interest to you?” .
The 11 principles of change
It is possible to change the size of each of the four quadrants. To explain the rules of change, Jospeh Luft’s book, “of human interaction” have been used. According to Luft, there are 11 principles which this change must follow:
- "A change in one quadrant will affect the other quadrants"
- "It requires energy to hide, deny or be blind to information in any of the four quadrants"
- "Threats tend to decrease awareness, mutual trust tend to increase it"
- "Forced awareness in undesirable and ineffective"
- "Interpersonal learning means a change where quadrant 1 becomes larger while one or more of the other quadrants become smaller"
- "Working with others requires a large enough area of free activity (the Arena)"
- "The smaller the first quadrant, the poorer the communication"
- "There is a universal curiosity about the unknown area, but thus is held in check by custom, social training, and diverse fears"
- "Sensitivity means appreciating the covert aspects of behaviors, in quadrants 2, 3 and 4, and respecting the desire of others to keep them so"
- "Learnings about group processes, as they are being experiences, helps to increase awareness (enlarging quadrant 1) for the group as a whole as well as for individual members"
- "The value system of a group and its membership may be notes in the way unknowns in life of the group are confronted"
All of these principles of change are important to take into account when moving toward a change within the window structure.
The project managers role in communication
It is the project managers responsibility to lead the project team. This includes being responsible for the communication within the teams and with stakeholders which may interact with the team. The project managers is also responsible for managing and resolving any conflicts within the team. Research have shown that the top 2% of project managers distinguished themselves by using relationship and communication skills while maintaining a positive attitude. This includes incorporating feedback channels. When talking about feedback, a leader should be able to communicate by accepting and giving constructive feedback. The Johari Window can be used to understand the importance of feedback, and the feedback can in turn help to expand the Johari Window for individuals and groups.
Using feedback to expand the quadrants of the Johari Window
While some people or teams may be comfortable with the current layout of their Johari Window, it is important to evolve the window to ensure the continued growth of the team and/or person.
As mentioned above, the Arena is the part of the Johari Window, where both oneself and others are aware of the information. By having a larger Arena, teams and individuals will have a larger area of operation where they are productive. It can be argued, that already established team members will have a larger Arena than new team members. This is due to the fact that this quadrant consists of elements known to both self and others. The Arena can be expanded if we share our knowledge with others, or others share their knowledge with us. By being an established member of a team, chances are that the members within the team have already shared their knowledge with each other, thus expanding this area. New team members may have a smaller Arena as they may not be known to the existing team members and do not possess knowledge of the current team. It is possible to expand the Arena, by limiting the space of the Blind Spot. Luft referred to this as "I need to have your information about me". This is also known as feedback or as "Accepting the blind".
As research have shown that professionals are generally blind to their own mistakes, thus leading them to overestimating themselves and their performance and/or competencies, it is important to provide the feedback-receiver with outside insights. It can be difficult for others to make a person aware of his/her Blind Spot, as a politeness barrier may be a part of the culture of a working place or a team work. It is however important for both individuals and teams to explore their Blind Spot, as this area hides knowledge known by others, thus leading to ignorance which means that teams and individuals are not effective when operating within this area. The managers in the company or of the group therefor have a great responsibility in creating an open and understanding culture where employees and team members may provide others with feedback to decrease their Blind Spot. Some suggest that giving feedback training to the people involved may help foster this open and understanding culture. It is however important that the feedback training does not only focus on giving constructive feedback but are also focusing on receiving, accepting and using the feedback given. As it may be sensitive for some people to explore the Blind Spot within the Johari window, it is the managers responsibility that this is done in a manner, where the individuals involved feels safe and the feedback is not seen as a manner of attack.
One may also need to share their Hidden Self, by reveling their Façade, in order to expand the Arena. This is also known as Exposure. In general, this is done by the person exposing their dreams, fears, feelings, hidden talents, memories and more, to other people. Motivating people to share their experiences with the team may not only increase the Arena for that specific person but will also increase the Arena for the other people and the team. How a team receives and reacts to the information from another person’s Hidden Self, conveys a vast amount of information from the team to the person giving the information. How the team react, verbally or nonverbally, to the information given, provides the giver with data about the team, thus decreasing the teams blind or hidden areas.
Feedback sessions are also beneficial to the feedback-giver, as they ay decrease their Façade by giving feedback. By giving feedback, the feedback-giver are giving the feedback-receiver valuable information about the responses he/she has about the actions from the feedback-receiver. The feedback-giver may provide information about likes/dislikes, previous experiences and feelings to the feedback-receiver, as he/she shares their feedback in a context.It is possible that by reducing the Hidden Area of a team, the risk of confusion and misunderstanding between team members decrease as their common Arena expands. As with the Blind Spot some individuals may be sensitive when reveling their Façade to others. A lot of people fear being judged on the basis of their feelings and experiences, thus tending to keep the information from the Hidden Area to themselves. It is therefore important that the individuals only expose the information hidden within their Façade when they themselves feel comfortable in doing so. Like with the Blind Spot, it is important that the managers seek to foster an open and understanding culture, where the individuals involved trust one another enough to expose themselves to others.
Some employees may only want to expose their feelings and goals when a trusting relationship have been established between the feedback-giver and feedback-receiver. Research have shown that having a positive relationship between the feedback-giver and feedback-receiver make the data from the feedback sessions more acceptable. It is therefore the managers duty to ensure a safe space and a trusting relationship between the feedback-giver and the feedback-receiver, to guarantee the expansion of the Arena for both the individuals and the team.
It is also possible to disclose information from in the Unknown Area. Luft argued that the Unknown Area could be explored in multiple ways:
- "Intentionally doing things you have not done before"
- "Continuously exploring both the Blind and Hidden areas"
- "Using untapped resources/skills/talent you have"
- "Exploring your dreams"
- "Paying attention to what stimulates you"
- "Unnumbing yourself"
While Luft focused mainly on actions the individual could take in order to explore their Unknown Area, there are also processes which managers can make use of, to let groups or individuals explore this area. It is, however, important to remember that it is up to the individual, and not up to the manager or other group members, to decide that he/she wants to explore this area. To ensure the success of the exploration of this area, it is important for the manager to establish an environment which appreciates and inspires the individuals or group to participate in the discovery of the Unknown information. While the individual or the group can try to explore this area by themselves, it may be beneficial to bring in other groups or individuals with different backgrounds to help foster the exploration and uncover the Unknown Secretes. Research conducted in regard to exploring self-awareness during residency education in the medical field found that non-physicians such as nurses, patients and case managers are able to provide useful insights on another level. This may enhance the continued professional development by helping the residents to explore their Unknown Area. The research also showed that the physicians are more likely to view this form of feedback as less credible and beneficial. It is therefore important that the managers who wish for their teams to explore the Unknown Area, evaluate the background and possible power relations between the insiders and the outsiders before bringing in external resources.
In all of this, it is important to remember to accept and validate the known to make the individual or the group feel heard and validated. By circling back to the Arena during feedback sessions, the feedback-giver offers the feedback-receiver validation that his/her perception of self and the context in which they operate are correct. It is important to validate the actions, emotions and thoughts in the Arena, as this help to justify or adjust the self assessment of both feedback-giver and feedback-receiver.
It is important, both when receiving and giving feedback, that we feel seen and understood. This self-assessment occurs in the Arena of the Johari Window. This is also the place where collaborating teams are most effective. While some people will have a fairly large Arena, others will need help to expand their Arena by exploring either the Blind Spot, the Façade or the Unknown.
As mentioned above, certain people are blind to their own mistakes, which leads to ignorance. This is also called the Blind Spot. It is possible for individuals and groups to expand their Arena, by exploring their Blind Spot through actions such as feedback. Elements which can stand in the way of successful exploration of the Blind Spot can, for instance, be the culture of the working place or the need to learn how to receive and use the feedback given.
The Arena can also be expanded by a person, or a team, reveling something known to themselves, but not to others, and therefore making their Façade smaller, while enlarging their Arena. It is important that the managers of an individual, team or company seek to develop and maintain a culture, where the person(s) involved feel safe to expose their Façade to others.
The Unknown quadrant is the most difficult to explore, as this is an area unknown to both self and others. Managers can foster the exploration of the Unknown by letting their employees seek new adventures, try new skills and giving them freedom. It is also suggested that one can explore the Unknown through feedback from people or teams, not directly involved in their work. This can for instance be doctors seeking feedback from their patients or the family of their patients.
In order for all of the individuals involved to be comfortable with exploring or exposing hidden and unknown parts of themselves, it is important that the managers and leaders of the teams and organizations work toward a safe and understanding environment. It is also important that the exposure of the quadrants happens on the individual or teams request. In other words; exploration of the Johari Window should not be mandated, but encouraged.
As mentioned above, the information within the Johari Window can be sensitive to the person giving or receiving the information. As the information may be sensitive one should be careful when retrieving this information, as it may push an individual or a group further away.
Some people may also, deliberately or by accident, pass on the sensitive information which they received from another person. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the project manager provides a safe and understanding context, so that the information-giver may feel safe to share his/her experiences.
Furthermore that Johari Window depends on individuals and groups willingness to give and receive information to expand the Arena.
1. Uncovering the unknown: A grounded theory study exploring the impact of self-awareness on the culture of feedback in residency education, by Ramani, S., Könings, K., Mann K.V. & van der Vleuten, C. - This study focuses on the use of feedback in medical residency to improve certain skills and behavior. It uncovers some relevant aspects in regard to how to give constructive feedback and how to target the feedback to expand the Johari Window. The article also explains how different elements such as the culture of the organization can interfere with the feedback and how medical professionals are prone to receive feedback. This study have been a great inspiration and source of information for this wiki article.
2. Johari Window Model and Free Diagrams by Chapman, A. - This website collects knowledge about the Johari Window in a manner which is easy to understand. The website has great explanations as to how the Johari window can be expanded in different directions. Furthermore it present examples of different Johari Window Models in regard to weather the employee is a new member or an established member. This website have been used as a basis for understanding and explaining the Johari Window, the quadrants and their interaction with one another. The website also provides the reader with Further Ideas which include Maslow and Tuckman.
3. Of human interaction by Luft, J. – The book was published by Joseph Luft, one of the authors of the original Johari Window. The book gives a detailed insight into the basis of the Johari Window and its quadrants. It takes a deep dive into each quadrant, explaining how it works, how it interacts with the others and much more. The book further explored group interaction in regard to the window, and how a leader can change the size of the quadrant and interact with employees in the different quadrants. The book is highly recommended as further reading, as it explain everything from the single quadrants, their interaction, groups interactions, a leaders possibility for interaction and influence and more.
4. Knowing You: Personal Tutoring, Learning Analytics and the Johari Window By R. Lowes – This article gives focus on personal tutoring and learning analytics, and how these can be applied to the Johari Window. The article gives great examples in how to use the Johari Window to conduct tutoring and how data can be used to expand and explore the Johari Window. Furthermore the article shows suggestions on which questions can be asked to expand and explore the different quadrants.
- ↑ Zûst, R. & Troxler, P. (2006). Communication. No More Muddling Through – Master Compelx Projects in Engineering and Management. Published by Springer Netherlands. ISBN: 978-1-4020-5018-3.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Luft, J. The Johari Window: a graphical model of awareness in interpersonal relations. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
- ↑ Oliver, S. & Duncan, S. (2015). Editorial: Looking through the Johari window. Research for All. 3rd ed. UCL Press. 1-6.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Project Management Institute, Inc. (2017) Project Management: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK guide. Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI). 6th Edition.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Luft, J. (1969) Of human interaction. Palo Alto, California; National Press Books. pp 177.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Lowes, R. (21 July 2020). Knowing You: Personal Tutoring, Learning Analytics and the Johari Window. Frontiers in Eduction. Vol. 5. 101.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Ramani, S. & Könings, K. & Mann K.V. & van der Vleuten, C. (25 July 2017). Uncovering the unknown: A grounded theory study exploring the impact of self-awareness on the culture of feedback in residency education. Medical Teacher. Vol. 39. Issue 10. pp 1065-1073.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Chapman, A. Businessballs. (2017, updated 2020). Johari Window Model and Free Diagrams. Retrieved 15 February 2021.