Using Big Data To Look Into The Johari Windows?


In 1955 Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham developed a technique to help people understand their relationship with self and others. Known as the Johariwindow model, they were able to dissect personal awareness into four zones:

  1. Open Area: We know things about us and that others also know those things about us
  2. Hidden Area: We know things about us that others don’t know about us
  3. Blind Area: We don’t know things about us that others know about us
  4. Unknown Area: We don’t know things about us and others also don’t know those things about us

These four states can be applied to our problems, solutions, experiences, thoughts, etc. And they can also be applied to understand and solve business problems. In the business setting we can morph the Johari window concept into the following:

  1. Problems we know aboutand whose solutions we also know – Open Area
  2. Problems we know of but we don’t know their solutions – Hidden Area
  3. Problems that we don’t know however if we knew about the existence of those problems, we possess the capability to solve them. They dwell on our corporate subconscious but we tend to ignore them or even recognize their presence – Blind Area
  4. Problems that we don’t know and even if we knew them, we wouldn’t know how to solve them – Unknown Area

Note that the example above was focused on “problems” – it can also be applied in assessing opportunities, challenges, etc.

For nearly four decades now, we have deployed information processing capabilities to solve problems and identify opportunities that fell into the first state i.e. Open Area.

Hidden and Blind problems and opportunities often become the battleground where business battles are fought (e.g. shareholder activism, customer revolt, corporate raiders, mergers, etc.). This area is not captured by our typical information processing tools. This is also the area in which we observe a full force combination of analytical rigor and human emotions. Even though these were really important areas to understand, prior to the advent of big data, we had very limited ability to solve such problems.

And the Unknown area pretty much remained unconquered space and occasionally, almost always serendipitously, we found about these problems.

Big data is impacting all of the four states of the Johari window. It is augmenting our ability to know more about what we already know or know that we don’t know. But more importantly it is opening up two parts of the window that were not opened for us before. It is now enabling us to know what we didn’t know we knew. And it is helping us discover what we didn’t know and didn’t know about our ignorance.

If it is confusing you, I can understand. Perhaps a couple of examples might help.

For a client we implemented big data platform to study the data ecosystem of one of the world’s largest financial services firm. The diagnostics revealed the following insights for our client:

  1. Clarity about areas in which client knew problems existed – e.g. interface analysis to determine data flow
  2. Awareness about areas in which client suspected problems may exist – e.g. interface analysis to identify unauthorized data flows
  3. Identification of problem areas in which our client knew that things could be problematic but had no idea whether problems existed or not – e.g. interface analysis to determine data flow between high risk to low risk systems
  4. Awareness about problems in areas in which our client had no idea about the problem areas or the problems – e.g. knowing how data was flowing back to the source systems

Thus big data can give us deep insights about problems that we don’t even know exist.