Affinity Diagram: How to Organize Information [2023] • Asana (2023)

Summary

An affinity diagram helps you process complex research or ideas by finding similarities among your data and grouping them accordingly. Whether you’re brainstorming or extrapolating data, an affinity diagram can help you visualize what’s in front of you and take action. Read on to learn how an affinity diagram can help you reach stronger conclusions.

To turn information into action, you must first draw conclusions. But conclusions can be hard to find in a sea of facts or ideas.

That’s where an affinity diagram comes in. Affinity diagrams help you organize your information so you can process what’s in front of you and identify common themes. Using this tool, your team can gain visibility into possible solutions or innovations.

What is an affinity diagram?

An affinity diagram—also called an affinity map—is a visual tool used to organize information. When you sort facts or ideas by common themes, your team can develop new ways of processing complex issues.

Affinity diagrams can also help you:

  • Spark meaningful discussions

  • Present your information to others

  • Find innovative solutions

What is affinity mapping?

Affinity mapping is the process of creating an affinity diagram—the end result. Perform affinity mapping to improve team collaboration by harnessing everyone’s best ideas.

After your team gathers facts or brainstorms ideas, work together to organize the data. Involve others in the organization process so you can gain a better understanding of the information before working toward solutions.

Free team brainstorm template

When to use an affinity diagram

If you’re finding it difficult to narrow down a solution to a problem, you may have too many facts or opinions and not enough structure. An affinity diagram can help make information more digestible.

Affinity Diagram: How to Organize Information [2023] • Asana (1)

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Use an affinity diagram to:

Whether you’re improving a strategic plan, developing a new product, or looking for answers, affinity mapping can help you find relevant insights and take action.

Affinity mapping in UX design

UX design teams often use affinity diagrams to analyze user research. Design thinking encourages UX teams to keep the user experience front of mind. By grouping research into categories—like target audience or customer pain points—your team can pull out the useful details and leave the rest.

Affinity mapping in Agile

Agile teams following a method of continuous improvement can use affinity diagrams to make sense of project information. For example, if your team wants to improve a past project, you can sort the project tasks by things like communication, process, or leadership. These categories will make it easier to identify what went wrong.

Read: How to capture lessons learned in project management

How to create an affinity diagram

To create an affinity diagram, work with your team to find commonalities in your research findings. You may notice various themes—some will be more relevant than others. Before grouping your data points, determine what categories will help you draw conclusions.

Affinity Diagram: How to Organize Information [2023] • Asana (2)

Think of affinity mapping as an essential step in processing your information. Follow the below steps to create a diagram and turn insights into actionable steps.

1. Choose a topic

This first step in creating an affinity diagram is to clarify what topic you need to organize or consolidate. You may need to sort through user research to improve your marketing strategy, or maybe you want to spark ideas for your next project.

Not every topic will work for an affinity diagram. Topics that have one of the following goals will work best:

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  • Extrapolating user research

  • Improving a past project

  • Developing ideas for a new product

  • Identifying issues with a process

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to look at it from another perspective. Ask yourself whether the topic you’re processing would be easier to understand if you organized the information differently.

2. Create a cross-functional team to brainstorm

A cross-functional team helps you look at your data from various perspectives, because each team member is bringing their own unique skill set and experiences. For example, you may default to grouping your ideas by “idea type,” while other team members may find more effective grouping methods, like “implementation requirements.”

Imagine you’re brainstorming ideas to improve customer relationships. If you sort the ideas by who came up with them, you likely won’t gain much insight into the product development process. Instead, identify groups that will push your ideas forward. For a CRM strategy, your categories could include the impact the idea will make or how complex the idea will be to implement. Work with your cross-functional team to find the best grouping methods.

3. List out your facts or ideas

Affinity diagrams are most commonly used for brainstorming sessions. When brainstorming with your team, use a brainstorming template to organize thoughts or ideas and turn them into actions.

For example, if you’re trying to brainstorm ideas to improve customer relationships, your initial idea list might include:

  • Targeted content

  • Social media posts

  • Upgraded CRM software

  • More direct sales strategy

  • Loyalty program

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  • Email newsletter

Make sure each list item is a singular idea or thought so you can group ideas based on their unique characteristics. If you’re using affinity mapping for research, pull out relevant facts in your data and list each one on its own line.

4. Sort items by category

Once you have an exhaustive list of items, it’s time to look for similarities among ideas or facts. Categorize items based on the most logical themes. Keep in mind that your grouping style can change the way you see information—as well as the conclusions you find.

Topic: Ideas to improve customer relationships.

Ideas:

  • Targeted content

  • Social media posts

  • Upgraded CRM software

  • More direct sales strategy

  • Loyalty program

  • Email newsletter

Possible categories:

  • By internal vs. external efforts

  • By creation complexity

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  • By impact

  • By urgency

You can group the ideas above in a few ways. One category option would be whether your efforts are internal or external. However, this grouping likely won’t help you narrow down your choices. Instead, group your ideas by how complex the creation process will be. That way, you can determine which idea will be the most logical to act on.

5. Make an action plan

Affinity diagrams help your team find answers so you can more confidently take action. After placing your ideas in groups, you’ll be able to see what ideas fit best with your goals of development or improvement.

Example:

  1. Narrow down your ideas: Narrow down your facts or ideas to the data that feels most relevant to your goals. For example, if your goal is to develop a new software product, remove any items that don’t involve this audience.

  2. Create an action plan: Once you have a strong set of data, work with your team to incorporate that data into your campaign or project. An action plan includes the specific steps your team will take to implement ideas or incorporate research into your project.

  3. Map out your timeline: Take the tasks from your action plan and assess how much time you think the project will take.

  4. Follow up on progress: Check in with your team and see how the implementation process is going.

When you have clarity on what it takes to implement an idea, you'll feel more confident in the idea or facts you’ve chosen.

Affinity diagram template

Below, you’ll see an illustration of what affinity mapping looks like. The concept is simple, but how you map out your diagram is key. Your priority should be to identify similarities among your facts or ideas that will lead to helpful insight.

Affinity Diagram: How to Organize Information [2023] • Asana (3)

Use the free affinity diagram template below and perform the process with your team. Once you create a digital affinity diagram, make it accessible through your work management system so your team and key stakeholders can reference it when needed.

Free affinity diagram template

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Affinity diagrams change the way you view information. With new perspectives, your team can quickly find the answers they’re looking for and develop innovative solutions to problems.

When you pair affinity mapping with a work management tool like Asana, you can transform your conclusions into quick action.

Try Asana for work management

FAQs

How affinity diagrams are used to organize and work with customer related information? ›

An affinity diagram works by organizing and categorizing your brainstorming ideas into categories based on their similarities. It makes it easier for teams to visualize their next steps and create an informed action plan.

What is the difference between affinity diagram and mind mapping? ›

Mind mapping and affinity diagrams are both tools used to visualize ideas, mind mapping is free flowing and explorative in nature. Affinity diagrams are used to categorize and organize ideas in a structured and logical manner. While both tools have a similarity in their nature their purpose differs significantly.

How do you organize a diagram? ›

You can organize your diagrams by arranging the elements in them or by aligning the elements with each other or with rulers and grids. You can also organize elements in a diagram by sorting them alphabetically or by choosing to show or hide certain ones.

What is the disadvantage of affinity diagram? ›

Affinity Diagram Disadvantages

Once you begin working on it, it stays in the room. Most often, you have to wait until the end of research to begin the affinity diagram. You need post-it notes and markers. Writing out each observation on post-it notes can be time consuming.

When should you use an affinity diagram? ›

A group can use an affinity diagram at any stage where it needs to generate and organize a large amount of information. For example, members of a leadership team may use the diagram during strategic planning to organize their thoughts and ideas.

What is affinity diagram example? ›

An affinity diagram is the organization of ideas into a natural or common relationship. For example, bananas, apples, and oranges would be grouped as fruits, while green beans, broccoli, and carrots would be grouped as vegetables.

What is the purpose of an affinity diagram? ›

Affinity diagrams help to unify large amounts of data by finding relationships between concepts or ideas. They allow you to organize facts, opinions, and issues into taxonomies in order to help diagnose complex problems and identify common issues. To organize several ideas, such as after brainstorming.

What do you do after affinity mapping? ›

Now that you've completed your affinity diagram, it's likely time for you to share your findings with the larger group. This could include key stakeholders within your team or even the c-suite.

What are the 3 different types of mind maps? ›

Generally, there are three common types of mind maps based on the projects' purpose: library mind maps are used to track information, presentation mind maps are used to present ideas, and tunnel timeline mind maps are used to organize and build a project plan.

What is the first step in creating an affinity diagram? ›

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.

What are the categories in affinity mapping? ›

Affinity Mapping

Categories could include observations from a research study, a new product design, and ideas for strategy and vision. To begin the mapping process, you'll want to write out ideas and information on movable blocks, like sticky notes.

Is affinity mapping same as thematic analysis? ›

Using an affinity map can help you quickly make sense of user research by finding patterns and themes in your data. Thematic analysis is the most common form of research analysis where you look for patterns and themes to group similar notes and observations together.

How do you visually organize information? ›

A mind map is a type of chart that organizes information visually. Typically, a mind map will stem from a central idea, with supporting ideas branching out from it in a nonlinear order. But as you'll see in this guide, a mind map can take many forms. There's a lot of ways you can use a mind map to visualize ideas.

What are the 5 ways to arrange and organize space? ›

5 Steps To Organize Any Space
  • Pick a Space.
  • Make a List of the Problems.
  • Brainstorm Solutions.
  • Make a Plan.
  • Get it Done.

What are 3 ways to organize your ideas? ›

Writers must put their ideas in order so the assignment makes sense. The most common orders are chronological order, spatial order, and order of importance.

Why do UX designers use affinity diagrams? ›

It helps UX professionals to sort ideas into logical groups by placing Post-its onto a board. Affinity diagramming is a great way to sort through dense research data and get to the root of findings. It also gets stakeholders engaged and invested in your UX research at an early stage.

Is affinity diagram used in Dmaic process? ›

The Affinity Diagram is a quality management tool used for Project Management. A Six Sigma Green or Black Belt most often use this tool in DFSS projects or in the MEASURE phase of a Six Sigma DMAIC project. It's designed to invoke creative thinking and organize qualitative information into related topics.

What are the benefits of affinity mapping? ›

The benefits of affinity mapping
  • Prioritize what's most important.
  • Unlock ideas that hadn't been considered before.
  • Discover the “real” problem.
  • Work together to solve a problem (team building)
  • Empathize with users or customers on common pain points.
  • Utilize multiple minds.
  • Reach a consensus together.

What is affinity sorting? ›

Definition: Affinity diagramming refers to organizing related facts into distinct clusters. Affinity diagramming is also known as affinity mapping, collaborative sorting, snowballing, or even card sorting.

What is the difference between affinity diagram and tree diagram? ›

Tree diagrams typically start with a single item at the top, which branches out into multiple items below it, each of which may branch out further in the same manner. Whereas affinity diagrams typically start with a large collection of items, which are then sorted and grouped together based on their similarities.

What are the 7 steps to creating a mind map? ›

7 Steps To Create Mind Map
  1. Step 1: Brainstorm A Central Idea. ...
  2. Step 2: Come Up With An Impressive Image. ...
  3. Step 3: Color Your Map. ...
  4. Step 4: Create Connections. ...
  5. Step 5: Make Your Branches Curved. ...
  6. Step 6: Use Single Key Words. ...
  7. Step 7: Replace Words With Pictures.

How do you categorize notes in affinity wall? ›

Walk up to the wall and grab a sticky note. Read it, and then put it to one side where you'll sort your notes. Now grab another note. If it's related to the first, put it next to it to start to form a cluster.

Which diagram shows step by step process? ›

Process diagrams, called “flow diagrams” by TOGAF, are used to model the sequence of activities within a process.

What is affinity grouping technique? ›

Affinity grouping can be used as a collaborative prioritization activity. It works by having your group of participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities on Post-It Notes. The team then works to put the sticky notes into groups of similar items. Once the groups are created, the team votes on the groups to rank them.

What is affinity grouping analysis? ›

Affinity grouping refers to the practice of gathering and grouping together pieces of qualitative (non-numeric) data, based on shared similarities. Types of data that are well suited to affinity grouping are ideas or suggestions from a collaborative meeting, or steps required to execute a new process.

What are the 2 types of thematic analysis? ›

An inductive approach involves allowing the data to determine your themes. A deductive approach involves coming to the data with some preconceived themes you expect to find reflected there, based on theory or existing knowledge.

Is affinity mapping a research method? ›

It's a common technique for user research analysis. Affinity mapping helps you extract actionable insights and distill patterns from what you've collected during research.

How do you group qualitative data? ›

Qualitative data is also called categorical data since this data can be grouped according to categories. For example, think of a student reading a paragraph from a book during one of the class sessions. A teacher who is listening to the reading gives feedback on how the child read that paragraph.

How do you group items together in affinity designer? ›

To create a group:
  1. Select multiple objects.
  2. Do one of the following: On the context toolbar, click Group. From the Layer menu, select Group.

What is affinity grouping of data? ›

Affinity grouping refers to the practice of gathering and grouping together pieces of qualitative (non-numeric) data, based on shared similarities. Types of data that are well suited to affinity grouping are ideas or suggestions from a collaborative meeting, or steps required to execute a new process.

What is the difference between a group and a layer in Affinity Designer? ›

The former can be used to collect together objects that naturally belong together while working on your page, while the latter lets you better organise your more complex documents via a purposely designed panel; the panel's layers being the structural backbone of the document.

How do you distribute evenly Affinity Designer? ›

Distributing/spacing objects
  1. Select multiple objects.
  2. On the Toolbar, click Alignment, click Space Horizontally or Space Vertically from the pop-up panel, and then click Apply.

How do I organize my notes? ›

Start by trying these six tips.
  1. Choose a proper note-taking method. Organizing your notes begins with choosing the note-taking method that works best for you. ...
  2. Optimize your note-taking process. ...
  3. Define categories. ...
  4. Create a filing system. ...
  5. Create a table of contents. ...
  6. Review and revise regularly.
Sep 22, 2022

How can I make my notes look organized? ›

Organising your notes
  1. Try using coloured paper so that all related notes are made on sheets of the same colour. ...
  2. You could use a concertina file, a folders, or a file with dividers to organise your notes according to topic, module or as part of an assignment. ...
  3. Devise an index to your notes and keep it up to date.

How do I group layers together? ›

Selecting a set of layers to put into a group layer—Select a set of layers that you want to combine into a group layer, right-click one of the highlighted layers, then choose Group. This creates a new group layer and adds the highlighted layers as its sublayers.

How do I group all layers? ›

Grouping Layers

To group layers, add a Group folder by clicking on the 'Create a new group' button in the Layers menu: To rename the group, simply double-click over the name and type a new name. To group layers, simply select a layer, hold down your mouse and drag the layer into the group folder.

How do you combine all the layers into one? ›

Use the Merge Layers keyboard shortcut.

The easiest way to merge layers is to click on one layer, hold Shift, and click on another. Then press Ctrl+E on Windows or Command+E on Mac to merge the two layers.

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