Have you ever been overwhelmed by lots of business ideas or information? If your answer is yes, then you might want to start using affinity diagrams in your business. These diagrams can help you get your head around complex business issues and lots of seemingly random data. They can even help you scale your business by simply organizing ideas around what’s important.
What Is an Affinity Diagram?
An affinity diagram is type of diagram that shows the relationships between information, issues, ideas, problems, potential solutions, and even opinions. Affinity diagrams allow you to sort these categories of information into groups based on the common characteristics they share. By doing so, you can analyze the information for your business in an efficient and effective manner. The process you go through when creating an affinity diagram is also called the KJ Method, which is named after the Japanese anthropologist, Kawakita Jiro, who created the technique.
When is it Best to Use an Affinity Diagram?
There are certain situations where an affinity diagram is more useful. One is when you are faced with a bunch of ideas in a chaotic situation. Another time is when the issues at hand seem too big or complicated to grasp. And yet another is when group consensus is needed to move forward. A common time to use affinity diagrams is with many people during a brainstorming session.
How Do You Create an Affinity Diagram?
The steps involved in making an affinity diagram in real-time are straightforward. The first step is to schedule a brainstorming session with all relevant people in your business. Be sure to state in the meeting that everyone’s opinion is as valid as the next person’s. Let lower-level employees feel comfortable being honest and open in front of senior employees.
Next, state the problem or issue at hand. Be clear and precise. Tell everyone to begin brainstorming and to keep track of each single idea they have on a single post-it note or index card. Once everyone is done, have each employee stick their notes onto a large board in any order they choose. The board full of ideas should appear random at first.
Now it’s time for you and your employees to discuss and analyze the board to find similar ideas. Take all of the similar ideas and begin grouping them together into individual categories. Start discussing the connections between the ideas and the categories. If an idea doesn’t clearly fit into a category, post it over to the side as a stand-alone idea. Eventually, after enough discussion, some logical connections might be made between the lone ideas and existing categories.
If an idea can fit into two categories, simply create a duplicate post-it note and place it into both categories. After an initial round of sorting, you and your employees might find it useful to start color-coding ideas with different inks and colored post-it notes. This might help establish connections between ideas and categories as the process gets further along.
An affinity diagram is a great way to take lots of ideas and information and transform it into something that’s easier to analyze and manage. Your next brainstorming sessions with employees might wind up being much more productive than ever before, and all you need to make it happen is some post-it notes or index cards, a large board to place ideas on, and openness between everyone in your business.