One of my early Electrical Engineering professors (this was in the early 1980’s) always talked about the knowns, unknowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns (blind spots). This can also be written as follows:
- I know
- I don’t know
- I know that I don’t know
- I don’t know that I don’t know
Keeping #4 at a minimum was always a good thing–it reduces risk. Items #2 and #3 required us to ask better questions, as well as be curious and open to new ideas. Item #1 is, at times, dangerous. We don’t always know what we think we know, and old knowledge can sometimes stand revisiting and updating.
Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham created the Johari Window nearly 30 years ago to describe human behavior. It sheds more light on blind spots by examining how much we let others know about us.
Sharing with others (self-disclosure) will decrease your hidden self, and it’s good for others to have a strong sense of who you are. Be careful not to over-share, though. Keep emotionally charged subjects to a minimum, so that others don’t feel like you’re unstable or untrustworthy.
At CO2 Partners, we firmly believe in the Just Ask Leadership philosophy. Asking (360 Feedback, Emotional Intelligence Assessment, open ended questions, etc.) is essential to finding and closing blind spots. A productive coaching relationship can help you discover and test what you know, what you don’t know, what you know you don’t know, and what you don’t know you don’t know–as well as what others know and don’t know about you.