It’s one of the best methods to learn to start working differently.

I’ve used it thousands of times to create clarity and structure. I could use it everyday with one of my teams. Yet I still forget to summon it regularly when I’m working on a new project.

In its most basic form, an affinity diagram works like this:

  1. Brainstorm a list of items in response to a question or topic.
  2. Sort them into “affinity” groups — items that are like each other (hence, the title of the method).
  3. Label those groups with a category name.

What you're left with is a clear, organized understanding of the subject at hand. And it works on any list of items.

  • Plan everything your team has to get done in the next two weeks.
  • Synthesize the feedback you hear from customers.
  • Evaluate topics for a speaker series.
  • Organize all the features in an application.
  • Target clients you’d like to develop.
  • Prioritize things you want to learn about this year.
  • Explore ways to develop your staff.

It’s great because in a matter of 45 minutes, you can create information and ideas that are helpful to your effort. And you’ll also have a structure that keeps you organized moving forward.

Start using this method at least once a week, and your team will start to notice the benefits:

  • More clarity — because information has been effectively synthesized less effectively
  • More conviction — because you are consistently exploring new options and prioritizing what's most important
  • More collaboration — because everyone is consistently engaging in the exercise together

Get started with an Affinity Diagram by downloading the method card below, and by watching the video at the top of this post.

 
Patrick is passionate about using human-centered design to build stronger businesses. Drawing on his experience in strategy and marketing across a range of industries, he strives to help others achieve meaningful impact in their organizations by working differently.
 
Our team is a passionate group of professionals at Ignite who have been working differently (and loving it!) for years. We come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but share a common love of creating new value and education. We're excited to work with you and your team to help you start working differently today.