Matrix, grid, window diagrams

What are matrix, grid, and window diagrams?

One of the simplest ways of organizing information in a visual structure. They take the form of a table, or series of panels. A common form is a two-by-two matrix, examining an issue along two different dimensions, representing a “four-quadrant model”.

What are matrix, grid, and window diagrams good for?

These diagrams are conceptually simple, yet very powerful. The form opens the mind to considering polarities along at least two dimensions of an issue, enabling a thoughtful and balanced approach. The tabular format assures completeness, as any empty square highlights the fact that some information or perspective is missing.

An unusual type of “window diagram”, suggested in Thinking Visually, resembles cartoon strip panels or a movie storyboard, with 4-6 panes. The first and last panes are filled in with some depiction of the current situation and desired future state, respectively, inviting one to envision and fill in possible intermediate steps to achieve the goal.

What are some examples?

SWOT diagram

SWOT diagram

SWOT diagram

A SWOT diagram is a useful tool in business strategic analysis. The initials stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The diagram is a 2×2 matrix where internal and external factors define one dimension and the other dimension is positive and negative. Thus, the organization’s Strengths are described in the box formed by the intersection of positive and internal; Opportunities are described in the intersection of positive and external, and so on. It is sometimes recommended that the analysis follow the order TOWS, focusing first on external threats and ending with internal strengths.

Johari window

Johari window

Johari window

The Johari window is named after the two people who developed the model. Like the SWOT diagram, it is a 2×2 matrix. It is a communication model, and its dimensions contrast two people’s views of information known about one of them. It points out the fact that we are all operating with incomplete information about each other and even ourselves. By disclosing information about ourselves, and providing feedback to others about how they are perceived, the “window” representing what we know about ourselves and that other people know about us can grow larger, and more open, with the result that more open and truthful communication can occur.

Tables

Table comparing dialogue mapping and causal mapping

Table comparing dialogue mapping and causal mapping

Tables are a familiar way of organizing information in a matrix or grid format. This table compares aspects of dialogue mapping and causal mapping.

Where can I learn more about matrix, grid, and window diagrams?

This kind of diagram is widely used. Once you are aware of it, you will notice many examples in articles and books. There are references on some of the sample diagrams.

Books

Chapter 8 in Thinking Visually: Business Applications of 14 Core Diagrams, Malcolm Craig, Ph.D., 2000, Continuum, London and New York

Chapter 8 in The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving, Morgan D. Jones, 1998, Three Rivers Press, NY, NY