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Through the Johari Window

Joe Benesh is a senior architect with Shive-Hattery and president and CEO of the Ingenuity Company, a strategic planning, diagramming, framework development and design thinking consulting firm.

Many of the posts I have written up until now have dealt with the externalities associated with strategic planning. Two books I have been reading recently have got me thinking a little more about the internal aspects of planning. One of these books is “The Second Self” by Sherry Turkle, the other is “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly. Both of these books deal with how our world is changing, and how our world is changing us. We are the product of our environment, and the electronic realm has impacted and accelerated our evolution in ways that we have yet to fully quantify.

Developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955, the Johari Window is a mechanism to help individuals understand themselves and their interactions with other individuals better. I’ve included a couple of examples of a Johari Window in this post.


The way that one uses this heuristic device is to populate the boxes with words or phrases that help one self-actualize based on the quantifications listed on the X and Y axes. This exercise is meant to be difficult – the blind area (2) and unknown area (4) can be difficult to navigate and require trust from you and others to populate in ways that either will find useful.

The same difficulty applies to the hidden area (3). If you are not able to be honest in your self-assessment, then the exercise will not reap the benefit you are seeking to realize.

The most important lines on the diagram are arguably the “ask” and “tell” arrows in the blue diagram. Being able to manage feedback and balance that with adjustments to capacity for self-disclosure is incredibly important when working toward a balanced path of shared discovery.

The books I mentioned at the beginning of this post deal with different aspects of self-discovery. Turkle’s book makes the argument that computers have created a mechanism for establishing an extension of our own identities. That computers are no longer simply tools, but our way of exploring and experiencing the world around us. So this is the “ask” in our Johari Window.

Kelly’s book looks at the way technology is having an impact on the way we interact with our world, sort of the other end of the narrative that Turkle creates, or the “tell” portion of the window.

Our relationship to each other and to the world around us is dramatically impacted by the technology we use. Some aspects of Johari’s Window are easier to confront because of the protection that the digital world affords us, while some are more difficult to engage because of this same reason. Johari Window

So, back to strategic planning. As we have access to more and more of these mechanisms to convey information and interface with the world around us, we need to keep sight of the end state vision of our planning efforts and the value to working through a rigorous and honest process. Shared discovery involves trust, can reinforce the integrity of the working parties, and ultimately build engagement through learning facilitated by a vast array of available resources.

Strategic planning, like many efforts, is only as good as the pieces that it is built from. Both by external mechanisms and internal infrastructure. Doing well really is achieved by doing good – by yourself and by others – together.

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