An Affinity Diagram is a tool that gathers large amounts of information (ideas, opinions, issues) and organizes them into groupings based on their natural relationships. The Affinity process is often used to group ideas generated by Brainstorming.
Affinity Diagrams help individuals or teams clarify unfamiliar problems. They use ‘language data’ to define the problem. They encourage brainstorming and other creative thinking techniques to identify patterns within data and help you organize your thoughts into meaningful groups.
Why use the Affinity Process?
The Affinity process is a good way to get people to work on a creative level to address difficult issues. It may be used in situations that are unknown or unexplored by a team, or in circumstances that seem confusing or disorganized, such as when people with diverse experiences form a new team, or when members have incomplete knowledge of the area of analysis.
When should we use the Affinity Process?
The Affinity process is formalized in an Affinity Diagram and is useful when you want to:
When shouldn't we use the Affinity Process?
As a rule of thumb, if less than 15 items of information have been identified, you should skip the Affinity process. Instead, you can clarify and combine the ideas and then use one of the Decision-Making Tools to identify the highest priority items.
Affinitizing is a process performed by a group or team. The idea is to meld the perspectives, opinions, and insights of a group of people who are knowledgeable about the issues.
The process of developing an Affinity Diagram seems to work best when there are no more than five or six participants.
Before going over the steps used to create an Affinity Diagram, we need to look at some unique features of the Affinity process that are important to its success:
Brainstorming then Affinitizing
Step-by-step process of creating an Affinity Diagram.
Step 1 - Generate ideas. Use Brainstorming technique to generate a list of ideas. The rest of the steps in the Affinity process will be easier if these ideas are written post-its.
Step 2 - Display the ideas. Post the ideas on a flip chart, a wall, or a table in a random manner.
Step 3 - Sort the ideas into related groups. The team members physically sort the cards into groupings, without talking, using the following process:
This process is repeated until the team has placed all of the ideas in groups.
NOTE: Ideally, all of the ideas can be sorted into related groups. If there are some "loners" that don’t fit any of the groups, don’t force them into groupings where they don’t really belong. Let them stand alone under their own headers.
Create header cards for the groups. A header is an idea that captures the essential link among the ideas contained in a group of cards. This idea is written on a single card or post-it and must consist of a phrase or sentence that clearly conveys the meaning, even to people who are not on the team.
The team develops headers for the groups by:
Step 5 - Draw the finished Diagram.
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