Do you want a simple way to arrange your business ideas or information? If your answer is yes, affinity diagrams can help. These diagrams cenable you to sort through seemingly random data and ideas to identify important concepts and find natural relationships. Whether you wish to organize your notes from a brainstorming session or understand complex business issues, you can use affinity diagrams to provide clarity.
What Is an Affinity Diagram?
An affinity diagram shows the relationships between many pieces of information. These include:
- Potential solutions
The diagram helps you find the similarities and connections between these items that might be hard to see at first glance. When making an affinity diagram, you separate information into groups based on common characteristics. Imagine you’re brainstorming about a new logo design. You end up with a big pile of ideas, concerns, and thoughts. To make an affinity diagram, you could organize all of the information into categories such as:
- Concerns about a new logo
- Out-of-the-box ideas
- Colorful designs
- Designs that help us reach new customers
Organizing the information makes it easier to digest so you can analyze the situation and take action quickly. It also helps you look at a problem from different angles, which can inspire creative solutions.
How To Create an Affinity Diagram
Making an affinity diagram is easy. You can do it alone, but it’s usually best in a group. To do this, you:
1) Gather your team: Explain the problem or issue to your team, and schedule a brainstorming session. It’s a good idea to reassure your team members that you consider all their opinions and thoughts valid.
2) Collect information: Brainstorm about the issue, and ask everyone to write down their thoughts and ideas. For the purpose of the diagram, it helps to write each thought on a separate index card or sticky note. Once everyone finishes, you can collect the notes on a large board or wall.
3) Organize the board: As a team, start to group related notes. At this point, there’s no need for discussion. You can work silently, allowing everyone to find their own similarities and categories. Are there ideas that don’t relate to any of the other notes? Simply set them off to the side as standalone items. Later, you might come up with a category that works. If you find an idea that fits into more than one category, simply write the idea on another card and put one in each group. You can also color-code your categories for more visual clarity. Eventually, all of your notes should be in a category.
Once you organize your ideas into an affinity diagram, you’re ready to move forward. You can discuss and analyse the information, and decide what to do next. Be sure to look out for surprising categories or unexpected relationships — they can lead to the most innovative business solutions.
Benefits of Affinity Diagrams
Affinity diagrams benefit your business by bringing order to chaos. They do this by helping you organize large amounts of information to make it more manageable. As a result, your team can get clarity on confusing problems and take more effective action.
If you manage a big team, you might find that the loudest voices and majority ideas often take center stage. Quieter or lower-level employees might not feel comfortable voicing opposing ideas. Affinity diagrams offer a great solution — they give all of your employees a voice. When you see everyone’s ideas in one place, you can more easily see the unexpected connections that lead to innovative solutions.
You can use an affinity diagram any time you need to deal with a huge amount of information. You might use them when:
- You have a confusing or chaotic situation at work
- You need to understand an issue that seems too big or complicated to grasp
- You want a group consensus to move forward with a project
- You wish to make sense of the ideas you generate from brainstorming session
- You feel overwhelmed by the options for scaling your business
An affinity diagram gives you an easy way to organize a large amount of information. Making the diagram is fast and fun, and the process can inspire a sense of collaboration in your team. Do you need more help organizing your business? If so, the QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app.