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Director’s View

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

By now most of us have probably come to the conclusion that working from home is overrated to say the least!

This strange “new-normal” during this global pandemic has however highlighted the need and emphasis on behavioral soft skills such as co-operation,inter-group development and empathy, which in turn leads to greater productivity, better group dynamics and indirectly increased sales.

A very useful cognitive psychological tool to achieve this, is something called the “Johari window” which was developed in 1995 by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in the United States. It can also be used to improve a group’s relationship with another group or individuals in a group, especially during these challenging times.

This model may also be viewed as a disclosure or feedback model and represents information such as skills, views, attitudes, motivation, feelings and experience within or about a person - in relation to their group.

The Johari window is effectively a quadrant or window with four regions as shown by the following diagram:

The four areas of the Johari window are:

1) Arena (Open space)

This area is what the person knows about themselves (behaviour, knowledge, attitude, views) and likewise what others know about them as well.

The primary objective is always to develop this area to the mutual benefit of both the individual and the group. This “shared” information leads to better trust and productivity within teams and greatly increases communication, as the group is free from conflict, mistrust and confusion.

By actively soliciting feedback from the group, the individual can expand this area to the right of the quadrant and in the process gain a better self-awareness.

The individual can grow the open area downwards, into the existing hidden quadrant, by disclosing more information about themselves to the rest of the group or by the group actively asking questions of the individual.

It is well known in the business community that top companies generally have a culture of open positive communication, therefore encouraging the positive development of the 'open area' or 'open self' for everyone.

2) Blind Spot/Area

This area represents what others know about the person, but what is unknown to him/herself. This area is not a productive quadrant within any group and the aim is always to reduce this as a priority. Some view this area as self-ignorance or self-delusion. Individuals who are so called “thick-skinned” generally have a large blind area.

As mentioned earlier, by soliciting feedback from the group, the individual can reduce this area and expand his open area at the same time (Therefore increasing self-awareness).

3) Hidden Area (Façade)

This area represents what the individual knows about him/herself, but keeps hidden from the group/others.

In a number of cases, this area would represent very private information about an individual that they would obviously not want to share within a group. This could be hidden agendas, fears, insecurities or secrets and may not have bearing on the work environment. Typically though, if this kind of information is work related it has a direct bearing on the productivity within the team and is therefore better off being moved to the open area or quadrant of the Johari window. This can only be achieved by the individual voluntary disclosing information by telling others in the group how they feel.

As I have mentioned before, the company’s culture will have a major influence on people’s preparedness to disclose more information about themselves. People tend to feel vulnerable and do not want to be judged by disclosing sensitive information about themselves.

4) Unknown Area

This space represents information, behaviour, attitudes, aptitudes and feelings that neither the individual nor the group knows about him/herself.

One would normally find a large unknown area with less experienced or younger people in general, or with people with a lack of self-belief. Some relevant examples of unknown areas could include:

  • A fear or aversion that the individual is not aware of

  • An ability within the person that is untried, untested or under-estimated

  • A potential natural ability within the individual that is unknown

  • Subconscious feelings or conditioned behaviour from childhood

  • An unknown illness

When this knowledge is uncovered, the question of course begs to which quadrant it is shifted? The Open, Hidden or Blind Area? This would depend largely on who discovered the information and what their intent is. Either to share it with the group through disclosure and move it to the open area or keep it in the hidden quadrant.

There are various processes than can assist to reveal information in the unknown quadrant. Group observation or self-discovery would obviously be two of them, but counselling or mutual discovery may also be beneficial. In the case of counselling, the individual would of course have the discretion of sharing this new information with the rest of the group (and making it “open” or keeping it “hidden”).

One of the biggest advantages of exploring this quadrant to the benefit of the organisation or team is the ability to uncover hidden aptitudes or skills. This is of course also not as sensitive an issue as uncovering unknown feelings.

Once again, managers should encourage self-discovery and constructive observation and feedback among team members, even whilst working remotely. Most people work well short of their true potential and a company with a culture of self-discovery can only benefit by allowing people to fulfil their true potential within the organisation.

This process of soliciting feedback or providing disclosure of course relates very closely to self-actualisation as Maslow’s described in his Hierarchy of Needs.

In conclusion:

A team that has a good mutual understanding of itself will always prove to be far more effective in a corporate environment. Although the Johari window is a potent tool for the modern manager, it is vital that the theory is explained properly to people in the organisation in order to empower them through this process of self-awareness and self-actualisation to the benefit of the entire company.

Only this will ensure that the principles of Johari are incorporated into their thinking process and behaviour going forward. The end result inevitably, will be an increase in revenue and staff retention!

Until next time, thank you for your continual support and stay safe!

Warm Regards

Johan de Villiers


First Technology Western Cape

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