Affinity Diagrams

Organizing Information and Ideas Into Common Themes

(Also Known as the K-J Method or Affinity Charts)

Affinity Diagrams

Group similar items or ideas together.

© iStockphoto/mura

Think about the last time you tried to make sense of a large number of ideas.

You may have felt overwhelmed by all of the suggestions, or perhaps you struggled to organize them and make sense of them. You may even have worried that you'd missed vital details, because you "couldn't see the wood for the trees."

In situations like this, you can use affinity diagrams to organize information and ideas, and see how they're connected. We'll look at how to create affinity diagrams in this article.

About the Tool

Japanese anthropologist Kawakita Jiro originally developed the affinity diagram – also known as the K-J Method or the affinity chart – in the 1960s.

When you use an affinity diagram, an example of which is shown in figure 1 below, you group unorganized ideas into meaningful themes. You can then see the connections between them.

Figure 1 – An Affinity Diagram

Example Affinity Diagram: Step 1

How to Use the Tool

Here is a step-by-step guide to creating affinity diagrams. As we work through the steps below, we'll use the example of organizing ideas from a brainstorming   session.

Step 1: Transfer Ideas Onto Sticky Notes

Write down every piece of information that you need to organize onto a separate sticky note.

When you are sure that you have written everything down, stick your notes onto a wall or table. Don't worry about organizing information at this stage – you'll do this next.

Example: Figure 2

Example Affinity Diagram: Step 2

Step 2: Sort Ideas Into Themes

Your next step is to sort all the ideas into groups. Start small – look for just two ideas that are similar in some way, and group them together on the table or wall. Then, look for another two ideas that relate to one other, and so on. (Where ideas are essentially the same...

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