Using Affinity Diagrams to make sense from Brainstorming
In most projects, brainstorming is a common tool used to gather issues. As a mechanism for allowing a group of individuals to get ideas and issues on the table brainstorming is hard to beat – however all too often such sessions generate large quantities of issues and these can become complex to review and difficult to interpret – it can also be challenging to highlight particular trends that the gathered issues may portray, finally following the brainstorming session, themes and thoughts may be forgotten.
There are however a variety of methods available to analyze and group the outputs of such team meetings, in order that gathered ideas can be efficiently utilized. Of these methods, Affinity diagrams represents an excellent tool to both group ideas in a logical way and capture themes that have developed during the brainstorming.
Created in the 1960’s by Jiro Kawakita, Affinity diagrams allows large numbers of ideas to be sorted into groups for review and analysis. These, simple to produce, diagrams are particularly useful with large group where ideas which are generated at a fast pace require to be organized.
The process for producing the Affinity diagram is easy enough:
1. Conduct a brainstorming meeting
2. Record ideas an issues on post-it-notes or cards
3. Gather post it notes/cards into a single place (e.g. a desk or wall)
4. Sort the ideas into groups based on the teams thoughts. Continue until all cards/notes have been sorted and the team is satisfied with their groupings.
5. Name each group with a description of what the group refers to and place the name at the top of each “group”.
6. Capture and discuss the themes or groups and how they may relate.
Whilst affinity diagrams are not complicated, getting the most from takes a little practice, for example
• Make sure that ideas/issues that have been captured are understood (brainstorming sessions have a habit of simplifying issues or agreeing without understanding the concepts being discussed.).
• Use an appropriate number of groups within the diagram, too many and it can become confusing and too few groups doesn’t allow for analysis – don’t use too many groups that it becomes unmanageable.
• Ensure that the brainstorming team all contribute to the affinity diagram groupings, this helps ensure that the diagram can be understood and that the information can then be utlised.
Step1: Gather all issues from brainstorming session
Step2: Group issues/ideas - describe each group.