Monday, August 4, 2014

The Johari Window as a Design Thinking Tool?

I've recently learned of a technique developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham used to help people better understand themselves and others. One aspect of it is particularly interesting in the context of Design Thinking - the Unknown Area.

The process is conducted by a group of individuals making selections from a list of 57 adjectives used as possible descriptions of the participants. The adjectives don’t represent good or bad traits in and of themselves, they are markers of the way the participants are perceived by themselves and others.
  • able, aggressive, ambivert, accepting, adaptable, bold
  • calm, caring, cheerful, clever, congenial, complex, confident
  • dependable, dignified, energetic, extrovert, friendly
  • giving, happy, helpful, idealistic, independent, ingenious
  • intelligent, introvert, kind, knowledgeable, logical, loving
  • mature, modest, nervous, observant, optimistic, organized
  • patient, powerful, proud, reflective, relaxed, religious
  • responsive, searching, self-assertive, self-conscious, sensible
  • sentimental, shy, silly, smart, spontaneous, sympathetic
  • tense, trustworthy, warm, wise
The adjectives are then mapped onto a 2x2 matrix with diagonal axis of self-other and known-unknown;

Adjectives that are selected by both the participant and peers are placed into the open/free area. [1]

Adjectives that are not selected by the participant but are selected by their peers are placed into the blind area[2]

Adjectives selected by the participant, but not by any of their peers, are placed into the hidden area. [3]

Adjectives which were not selected by either the participant or their peers remain in the unknown area. [4]

In effect, all adjectives start out in the unknown area and are moved into other quadrants by a mutual process of selection.

The open area is also known as the ‘public self arena’ or ‘area of free activity’. This is the information about the person – behavior, attitude, feelings, emotion, knowledge, experience, skills, views, etc - known by the participant and the group. This quadrant contains the things that a person is happy to share and show to others. It provides a common view of the person and can be discussed openly.

The hidden area of the window or ‘private self’ refers to what is known to the individual but kept hidden from, and therefore unknown, to others. The hidden area could also include sensitivities, fears, hidden agendas, manipulative intentions, and secrets - anything that a person knows but does not reveal, for whatever reason. It is natural for personal and private information and feelings to remain hidden. In fact, certain information, feelings and experiences have no bearing on work, and so can and should remain hidden.

The blind area contains what is known about a person by others in the group, but is unknown by the person themselves. This area could also be referred to as ignorance about oneself, or the zone of self-deception. A blind area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding from someone else or public view.

The unknown area contains information that is unknown to anyone – self and other people. Often referred to as the ‘undiscovered’ quadrant, this is a potential source of personal creativity and other resources which may never have been investigated or suspected.

Unknown issues take a variety of forms: they can be feelings, behaviors, attitudes, capabilities, aptitudes, which can be quite close to the surface, and which can be positive and useful, or they can be deeper aspects of a person or situation, influencing outcomes to varying degrees.

It also occurs to me that the blind and unknown areas present opportunities to embrace the ambiguities in a problem statement and that this mapping technique might be useful in guiding a Design Thinking cycle thru it's phases by revealing areas which are not known or poorly understood. 

A given problem statement would probably require a different set of adjectives, as these are primarily personality traits, but if the DT group were given the opportunity to build a list of adjectives based on their individual and collective knowledge of the situation, the matrix could point to the opportunities hidden in the ambiguities.

There is a nicely presented Johari Window Kit currently available thru Management Diagnostics.

No comments:

Post a Comment