An affinity diagram is an organizational tool used to consolidate large volumes of information or data according to their similarities, or affinities.
Organizing data in a logical way is never easy, especially when you’ve got a lot of it (after a brainstorming session or survey, for example). An affinity diagram can be very useful in these cases, as it brings a sense of order to the chaos.
In its simplest terms, an affinity diagram is a result of taking each data point and grouping it based on its relationship — or affinity — to the other data points. In this way, a natural and relational grouping of the data will begin to surface over time.
Affinity diagrams can be created using digital tools, but one of the most effective real-world options is the use of sticky notes. Each of the sticky notes represents a data point, and the team is free to move and group these in a way that makes sense to them.
You build an affinity diagram in four easy steps:
Write each idea, insight, concept or problem to be solved on a stick note
Group the sticky notes together by theme
Name each group
Step back and consider your groupings — are they all distinct and clear? Could any be reorganized and redefined?
Affinity diagrams can be a valuable group decision-making tool.
Creating an affinity diagram can be a dynamic (and fair) way to sort large volumes of information as a team. Participants are encouraged to carry out the grouping of the information in a freeform way, often silently without conferring with the rest of the team.
In this way, teams are free to explore data sets in a non-linear fashion and reveal connections that may otherwise have gone undiscovered.