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Affinity diagram

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An Affinity Diagram is a tool that gathers large amounts of language data (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.

Why should teams 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:

Sift through large volumes of data. For example, a process owner who is identifying customers and their needs might compile a very large list of unsorted data. In such a case, creating an Affinity Diagram might be helpful for organizing the data into groups.

Encourage new patterns of thinking. An Affinity exercise is an excellent way to get a group of people to react on a "gut level" rather than mulling things over intellectually. Since Brainstorming is the first step in making an Affinity Diagram, the team considers all ideas from all members without criticism. This stimulus is often enough to break through traditional or entrenched thinking, enabling the team to develop a creative list of ideas.

How to create an affinity diagram?

  • Step 1 - Generate ideas
  • Step 2 - Display ideas
  • Step 3 - Sort ideas into groups
  • Step 4 - Create header cards
  • Step 5 - Draw finished diagram