The Johari Window: Uncovering the Blind Spots in Business

entrepreneurship strategy Mar 01, 2016

How self-aware is your company? Identify blind spots in your business, leadership, and customer relationships by using the Johari Window Model. Here's how.

Successful businesses (just like successful leaders) possess self-awarenessbut how do you know if you are really seeing yourself clearly? How do you build self-awareness into the DNA of your company? When we consult business owners, we use the Johari Window Model to do just that.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Johari Window Model, it’s a diagramming tool that was developed by psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955. Basically, it unpacks self-awareness to help people understand their relationship with themselves and others. But it can also be applied to businesses with powerful results.

What is the Johari Window Model?

The model diagrams self-awareness across four dimensions:

  1. The Open Area or Arena: This is what is known to the self as well as to others. 
  2. Blind Spots: This is what is known to others, but not to the self— an important concept that we’ll unpack a little later. 
  3. The Hidden Area or Facade: This is what is not known to others but is known to the self.
  4. The Great Unknown: This is what is unknown to the self and to others—very difficult to uncover.

Using the Johari Window for Business

If we replace the word “Self” with “Company,” and the word “Others” with “Market,” we create a powerful mind map to help you categorize your business's level of self-awareness.

  1. Mutually Understood Truth About Your Company: This occurs when your value and your target customers' perception of your value is aligned—obviously, this is ideal.
  2. Blind Spot Within Your Company: This happens when your customers' perception or experience is not aligned with the value you supposedly offer—otherwise known as "the danger zone", a place you do not want to be. 
  3. Stature/Appreciation Potential: This is when you know you have something to offer that your customers are not aware of. This creates an opportunity to build stature or appreciation in your market—like an added bonus!
  4. Unknown: This is a murky area where neither you nor your customers know what value you have to offer—either because your business is still in the "idea phase"...or you've really lost sight of what you're doing.

The Importance of Finding Your Blind Spots

All four of these areas deserve attention—but the most critical category business owners should focus on is the Blind Spots area.

This is especially true for small businesses that often have fewer resources to gather customer feedback. Just like driving a car, running your business without awareness of your blind spots is dangerous for two reasons:

  1. Missing Opportunities: Maybe you know you have the best price in your market, but do your customers? If they don't, you're leaving money on the table.
    • What to Do: Start by examining the valuable things you offer to the market that— if they surfaced — would be worth talking about. Then refocus your messaging platform around communicating those values.
  2. Damaged Reputation: I’ve worked with companies who think they have excellent customer service, but when I talk to their customers, that’s not the reality.
    • What to Do: It’s so important to your business survival that you know how the market actually perceives you, instead of relying on assumptions or old knowledge. Start by finding out what customers do think about your company, and work from their perspective in order to change their perception.

Applying the Johari Window to your company will help you discover opportunities to create value, and reveal problem areas that need to be mitigated—but can be fixed.

How to Leverage Your Awareness

When we advise business owners, we often say that you can only communicate the "true truth" of what you are. Meaning, there are lots of things you think are true about your business—but the "true truth" is the perception that your customers have of you based on the sum of your messaging, positioning, and (above all) your customer care.

The Johari Window helps you identify what that "true truth" is. But what do you do with this awareness?

  1. Sharpen your messaging: The Johari Window may reveal that you aren't communicating what you think you are to your target customers. Use your new-found awareness of your company to recalibrate your marketing and sharpen your messaging for that target.
  2. Change the actual reality of what you do: After going through the Johari Window, you may realize that some fundamental changes have to be made to your product, people, or policies. You may decide you want to add a capability, hire talent, or change something in your product to create a different perception (i.e. a new “true truth”) in the market about your company.

Questions to Consider:

Using the Johari Window model on your business will help you uncover and take ownership of your blind areas. By widening your "visual field", you and your team members can capitalize on missed opportunities and protect your company's reputation.

  • How can you incorporate the Johari Window in your next leadership meeting?
  • What methods are you using to collect data on your target customer views your company?
  • How will you uncover blind spots and discover the “true truth” of your business?
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