Affinity Diagram

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Affinity Diagram is a tool for organizing ideas generated during a brainstorming session into groups by similarity. It organizes ideas into categories so that they're easier to understand.

The term Affinity diagram was proposed by Kawakata Jiro in the 1960s, and because of it, this tool is sometimes called the KJ method.

What is an Affinity Diagram?

Affinity diagrams are one of the Seven Management and Planning Tools.

The idea behind it is to help people understand their thoughts better by organizing them into groups based on similarity. This process aims to find patterns in thinking so you can begin to see how different ideas relate to each other.


What is an Affinity Diagram Used for?

Here are some of the examples where affinity diagrams are helpful:

Brainstorming - They help you look at the bigger picture of the problem more clearly and develop new solutions.

Group Problem Solving - They help you get a broader perspective on your issue and identify commonalities among your team members' ideas.

Team Building - They help you build stronger relationships with your teammates.

Organizing / Deciding - Affinity diagrams help you decide what projects/goals should be pursued. 

Solving Problems - They help you think about why specific problems exist.


What Are the Five Good Features of an Affinity Diagram?

The following five features make the affinity diagram an excellent visualization tool.

1. Better understanding

By grouping ideas, you can better understand the problem you are trying to solve. By seeing how ideas relate together, it is easier to see where your ideas fit and where they don't.

2. Helps You Detect Connections

In the process of creating an affinity diagram, you get a good idea about the connections between different ideas.

3. Helps Create Relationships

With the proper layout, it's easy to spot any correlations or dependencies between ideas. These relationships can help you determine if there are any gaps in knowledge that might need to be addressed before moving forward.

4. More Persuasive Skills

When you're using an affinity diagram to communicate, it makes it much easier to see how ideas relate to one another. This helps you use logic to present your ideas and reach your decision-making goals faster.

5. Makes It Easier To Visualize Your Findings

It is especially helpful to draw an affinity diagram when discussing something challenging to wrap your head around. Since it is visual, it allows you to see exactly how everything fits together.

How Is One Created?

The following example shows the step-by-step process of creating an affinity diagram:

Background: I create online courses. I want to improve the quality of my exam preparation online courses.

Brainstorming: I brainstormed with my students to understand what they expect from an online course. During this session, various ideas were presented by students. See the list of ideas in the below picture.

Group ideas (Affinity Diagram): Different ideas were grouped into three categories: Contents, presentation and practice.

This resulted in an affinity diagram that gave a much better picture of the brainstorming session.

You can do further brainstorming to see if you have missed some areas or anything else that can be added to these clusters.

Tools for creating a histogram

Various tools can be used to create a histogram.

1. Manual: Use Post-It notes for collecting various ideas and using multiple flipcharts to group these ideas.

2. Various Online Tools: Such as Lucidcharts

Do's and Don'ts of Affinity Diagram

The following tips will help you create an effective affinity diagram:

1. Start with a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.

2. Write down all of the ideas that come to mind.

3. Group ideas based on similarities.

4. Be sure to label each cluster so that everyone knows who belongs in each section. The labels may be written in caps for clarity.

5. Think up names for the clusters (groups). They don't necessarily have to match the original ones used during the brainstorming sessions.

6. Try to include a variety of colours and shapes to enhance the overall look of your diagram.


The affinity diagram is a helpful technique that will allow you to organize your thoughts and ideas quickly and ultimately bring them together into a concise form. Using this thinking tool will enable you to think deeper and clearer about the issue at hand.

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