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How do we know what we don't know? The use of Johari's Window

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Last year I attended an informal CPD workshop on creating solutions, with a focus on how to develop ourselves through the use of Johari's window. 

This blog will explore a big elusive question that is widely debated; How do we know what we don't know?

Firstly let me explain briefly what Johari's window actually is. Johari's window is a psychological concept created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955. It's a simple and useful tool for understanding our self awareness, and how our personal development can be implemented within training. Top companies often use Johari's window to shape their CPD!

Thought: A small change can make a big difference, and we all see the world differently - our perspective is our reality!

Please see a few images below of Johari's window (Please accept my apologies in advance for the amount of images in this blog!)

You'll notice that none of the 'windows' act in isolation, and that they all cross pollinate with one another. The far right is arguably the most crucial window, as this is where our 'blind spot' and unknown areas lie. This is where a lot of barriers unknown to us lie, perhaps a really small detail that may act as a barrier to us gaining a qualification or progressing as a coach. I will use an example of a personal experience later in this blog!

I'm sure at some point we have all done a personal improvement grid, or a simple SWOT analysis to highlight our strengths and weaknesses. This helps identify where we're at in our journey, and what we need to do to move to the next step. This will largely link into a lot of growth mindset theories, and how willing you are to communicate these areas to yourself (seeing challenges as opportunities rather than threats) and others, where we need to be open about them with others. 

Before doing this, consider;

What can I control?

These may be how you speak to others, how much time you dedicate towards things and what decisions you decide to make!

What can I influence?

Consider how much you can influence others, such as creating a positive environment to learn, encouraging a growth mindset or even influencing how things may be implemented within your team or club. Is their certain channels of people that you have to go through, and what barriers may exist?

Our own Johari's window will look completly different as we all see the world differently. What may seem really important for us to achieve may seem minimal to someone else. But the key is, they can share their experiences with you of how they managed to overcome that personal development point. 

Take a look at the images below, and consider how your own Johari's window looks, and does it differ when you discuss these points with peers, line managers, academy directors, mentors or tutors?

So this goes onto the crucial question, how do we know what we don't know? A personal experience of this is when I was taking my UEFA B Licence in football, and I was pretty much in denial about some behaviours that I showed within my session that tutors could see, but I couldn't! These were things such as stopping the session at the right time for a coaching point, and how I could link some coaching 'pictures' to my technical detail. These were all intrinsically linked, and admittedly became a sticking point between myself progressing on the course and passing the assessment. I went away, tweaked a few things in my session and practiced my topic no less than 20 times before my assessment. But the crucial turning point is how I opened lines of communication with my tutor... Through some good conversations with my tutor and their observations of my sessions, I asked them to be brutally honest with me, in the sense that if I didn't give the right detail or picture for a coaching point, that they would either intervene or make notes on that intervention. This built the foundations for a positive working relationship and put me much more at ease. The other crucial aspect is how I also identified the blind spots that were highlighted by my tutor, through the use of recording my voice and filming my sessions ahead of my assessment, which was a painful but eye opening experience!

I then sent these clips off to my tutor who then set a date for my assessment, and I found the assessment a really enjoyable experience! This was because I could visualise some of my development points which made on the spot decisions from my reflections...a time consuming but the crucial difference for me!

Here's some tips on the use of identifying developmental needs and the use of Johari's window;

  1. Consider what you can control and influence that is relevant to YOU, try not to waste time and energy on or attention on things beyond your control or influence!
  2. Study the concept of Johari's Window and its relevance to the environment that you work in. The more open the window, the more effective your team will be! How can you drive that open window to minimise your blind and hidden areas? Consider the use of observation, analysis, feedback and conversations!
  3. Use a time diagram to prioritise your work; to do now, things that create time and things that steal time when dealing with admin, problems and work load. Leaving things to the last minute will steal your ability to be creative!
  4. There will always be a solution, you won’t always have the answer so speak to others in your team and in the wider community. There's lots of people that want to help you...! Often asking a question or sharing your experiences is often seen as being 'busy' or 'attention seeking' but don't see this as a barrier to your development, if you know you are doing things for the right reasons!
  5. Listen to others when they are trying to speak...how much do we learn when we are talking? Sometimes we may be stopping the person who has the best solution no matter how ludacris it may sound! That person may be a really key person to help you at a later date, so building relationships is key!

Thanks for reading, I'd like to know how you have used or considered the use of Johari's window to implement their personal CPD, and how they have communicated this with others to identify blind spots and share experiences. 

Richard Allen

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Comments (7)

Richard, really interesting piece, thank you for sharing. Working as I do both in business and sport, as a general rule I would say that within sport (both coaches and athletes) people are much better at acknowledging their weaknesses and looking to improve them. The culture within many businesses does not engender this type of approach. Timely feedback is also very important for this type of approach, so the time-honoured annual appraisal is not helpful! Understanding your strengths is something very close to our hearts within our business, not least because so much research shows that working on and leveraging your strengths provides a better return on investment, and greater possibility of moving from good to excellent.
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Richard it's a very good presentation a very practical and interesting. I have seen it before but more theoric and inside a psychological presentation of Sports Psichology. This is a big problem to many coaches also high level coaches. I talk from inside my experience from 40 years of Volleyball coach in top level club teams and national teams Junior and Seniores Men's and Women's also if here more like assistant or 2nd.coach. Sometimes they don't want see the blind side - truly. Not easy for the others on the team. Thank you to remember this.
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Richard-Thankyou! Well presented-transparent communication is key as is being able to tuck away our egos at times though not always easy.
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I think communication at its best should be up, down and sideways across all people and departments! Easier said than done mind!
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Problem 1: Skewed inspection 
People have a tendency to focus their attention toward information that supports their preconceived ideas or beliefs. This phenomenon is called “confirmation bias”, and it affects most people, including coaches.

Rather than admit to their method being wrong, some coaches refuse to consider inconsistent findings as “real”, and they were more likely to look closely at “where they might have gone wrong”.

It seems that coaches are less likely to scrutinise results that “align” with their theories, but when we’re faced with results that appear out of the ordinary, intuition tells us to take another look. Some will even re-analyse the data to find plausible explanations for the unexpected result. This “asymmetric attention” to research findings leaves the door open for biased interpretations and unnecessary secondary analyses that skew accurate representations of the data.

This phenomenon can, of course, also work in the opposite way. Sometimes coaches might find results that challenge the status-quo to be more interesting! When this is the case, disconfirmation bias can encourage researchers to wholeheartedly accept the unexpected finding without subjecting it to much scrutiny.

The bottom line is that we often pay unequal attention to findings that seem incongruent (or congruent) with our expectations. It might be OK to question the findings and check for major blunders in the methods, but a problem arises when this process is skewed, or driven by preconceived inklings or invested interests in the findings. 

Problem 2: Malleable hypotheses
Coming up with a hypothesis is like baking a cake. First you gather the ingredients – this is when you’re sitting on the bus, or in the shower – accumulating bits and pieces of information with random thoughts. Then you start mixing the ingredients together into a runny mixture – this is when we have connected coaches forum corridor discussions and meetings to build the hypothesis. Then, you slide the cake mix in the oven and it bakes – this is when we lock our hypothesis in a protocol, never to be touched again. The difference is that while you can’t deconstruct a cake, you can deconstruct a hypothesis.
Coaches communication can take on a sour taste when we start tinkering with our original hypothesis after having been exposed to the data. This is why it’s often advised to take a deductive approach and to lock down an a priori hypothesis before data collection, and stick to the recipe when analysing the data.
Some have taken alternative views on this. For example, in 1987 Daryl Bem, a distinguished social scientist, wrote: “There are two possible articles you can write: (1) the article you planned to write when you designed the study; or (2) the article that makes the most sense now that you have seen the results”. He argues that option 2 is the correct approach, especially when the study is exploratory [6].

This quote from Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow – illustrates a key motive that seems to drive cognitive biases.

“We see a world that is vastly more coherent that the world actually is. The confidence that people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence, but is a judgement of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct. When there is little evidence, no conflict, the story is good. People tend to have great belief, great faith in stories that are based on little evidence. It generates what Amos and I call ‘natural assessments’ ”.
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Hi Ralph, some great points there. When I was studying and writing research, I can certainly relate to "malleable hypotheses" as I often didn't write the title before my findings and results! BUT however as I was really passionate to prove a certain point, this skewed the direction of where I wanted the research to go.. however it brought out some fascinating stuff.

Have you come across the term of strategic compliance? Whereby people have high levels of learning but their learning retention is low and only superficial... for what they think they want to know!
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In a companion paper, it was proposed that cognitive debiasing is a skill essential in developing sound clinical reasoning to mitigate the incidence of diagnostic failure for sports coaches. They reviewed the origins of cognitive biases and some proposed mechanisms for how debiasing processes might work. In their paper, they first outline a general schema of how cognitive change occurs and the constraints that may apply. They review a variety of individual factors, many of them biases themselves, which may be impediments to change. They then examined the major strategies that have been developed in the social sciences and in medicine to achieve cognitive and affective debiasing, including the important concept of forcing functions. The abundance and rich variety of approaches that exist in the literature and in individual sporting domains illustrate the difficulties inherent in achieving cognitive change, and also the need for such interventions. Ongoing cognitive debiasing is arguably the most important feature of the critical thinking sports coach and the well-calibrated mind. They outline three groups of suggested interventions going forward: educational strategies, workplace strategies and forcing functions. They stress the importance of ambient and contextual influences on the quality of individual decision making and the need to address factors known to impair calibration of the decision maker. They also emphasised the importance of introducing these concepts and corollary development of training in critical thinking.
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The notion of “unknown unknowns” originated in the world of design and engineering. To put it simply, you have within your realm of experience “known unknowns” and the far more daunting “unknown unknowns.”

The latter are those circumstances that are so far removed from our ordinary experience that we cannot even fathom them -- like the idea that you could be living in a computer simulation right now. A sign of an intelligent person is knowing there are things you don’t know, but a sign of an even more intelligent person may be knowing there are things that you don’t know you don’t know.
When you may run into trouble, on the other hand, is when you may believe you know everything and close your mind to learning any new ideas. Unfortunately, a great deal of the underlying premises upon which our society was built fall into this realm.
Take, for instance, the notion that the world, especially biology and medicine, operates through Newtonian physics. It says you live in a mechanical universe.
According to this belief, your body is a physical machine, so by modifying the parts of the machine, you can modify your health.
As a physical machine, your body responds to physical “things” like chemicals and drugs, and by adjusting the drugs that modify your machinery, doctors can modify and control life.
Now, with the advent of quantum physics, scientists have realized that this theory is flawed because quantum physics show that the invisible, immaterial realm is far more important than the material realm.

In fact, your thoughts may shape your environment far more than physical matter, it’s the new field of Science called Epigenics. Unfortunately, many “conventional” experts in the field of medicine refuse to believe in these “unknown unknowns” -- a definite sign of ignorance if there ever was one.
As Voltaire said, "A state of doubt is unpleasant, but a state of certainty is ridiculous."
Yet we coach our athlete to remove doubt and have total belife.
“I belive in black and white, grey is where doubt lives.” Ian Botham

Can You Harness That Which You Don’t Know?
Even if you are too self-deceived to know you are ignorant, you can improve your skills and help realize the level of your limitations, according to Dunning and Kruger.
I also believe everyone has the power to access their subconscious abilities, and these are skills that are not adequately measured by any conventional test of intelligence at this time.
According to Dr. Richard Bartlett’s Matrix Energetics (ME), for instance, your right brain can actually access information that is normally blocked by your conscious attention, if you allow that information to come through and pay attention to it.
Regardless of your intellectual abilities, you can learn to hear your instincts, listen to them well, and ultimately harness this energy to maximize and optimize ALL the life experiences available to you.
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