Project Management

Use Of Affinity Diagram As A Brainstorming Tool

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Use Of Affinity Diagram As A Brainstorming Tool

Key to Information Management Strategy


Agile, Business Intelligence, Business Requirements, Change Management, Communication, Leadership, Organizational Project Management, Process Improvements, Risk Management, Stakeholder Management


When there is lot of information coming our way during scope management plan, it is hard to sort through everything and organize the information in a way that makes sense and help the project team to make meaningful decisions. Whether we are brainstorming ideas, or when the team members are dealing with lot of information from a variety of sources, we can end up spending a huge amount of time trying to collect all the bits and pieces. Rather than letting the disjointed information get the best of us, we use an affinity diagram to help organize the information we collected during this process.

In my experience most decision-making exercises begin with brainstorming, and I think this is one of the most common application of affinity diagram. Usually after a brainstorming session we will come across pages of ideas. And, in most cases these won't be edited in any way, many of them will be very similar, and many will be closely related to other ideas in a variety of ways. 

In my current project, each team member decided to write ideas on a separate sticky note and put them on a wall. Then we sorted ideas into groups by asking, what ideas are similar? Is this idea connected to any of the others? etc. We kept on moving the sticky notes around until consensus were reached.  We continued to group ideas until we had reached the broadest. 

The brainstorming session was the most challenging during the collect requirement process. We gathered ideas and content from all team members and key stakeholders. The data gathered were analyzed and different patterns were grouped and created. With the results available and the information gathered from team members, this diagram was presented to sponsor and key stakeholders to ensure that they had a heads up on the structure created. 


Affinity diagrams are great tools for grouping and understanding large amounts of information. When you work through the process of creating relationships and working backwards from detailed information to broad groups, you get an insight you would not otherwise find. Team members themselves brainstormed and reorganized data which otherwise may not provide good results.

The lesson we learned from the project was that next time when we are confronting a large amount of information or number of ideas and if we feel overwhelmed at first glance, will use the affinity diagram approach to discover all the hidden linkages. And when we cannot see the forest for the trees, an affinity diagram may be exactly what we need to get back in focus.

Posted on: January 13, 2018 02:55 PM | Permalink

Comments (11)

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Sante Delle-Vergini Senior Project Manager| Infosys Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The human brain understands categorization of information a lot easier than random association, even though the volume of information may be the same. Affinity diagrams are a good way to accomplish this.

Anish Abraham Privacy Program Manager| University of Washington Auburn, Wa, USA
I agree with you, Sante and thanks for your feedback.

Drake Settsu Project Manager / Blogger Hi, USA
Good information Anish. Thanks!

Cringasu Alina Banca Transilvania Romania
I agree with you, affinity diagram is a verry helpfull tool that allows large numbers of ideas from brainstorming to be sorted into groups for review and analysis. Thanks for sharing this article.

Najam Mumtaz Retired Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Affinity diagram is a very viable tool to group similar ideas, it's just like creating theme which group similar ideas and ideas with a shared topic or concept. This eases the next step in the process to select which theme to develop further.
Thank you Anish for a great article.

Eduin Fernando Valdes Alvarado Project Manager| F y F Fabricamos Futuro Villavicencio, Meta, Colombia
Thanks for sharing

Kiron Bondale
Community Champion
Mentor| World Class Productivity Inc. Welland, Ontario, Canada
Affinity grouping & diagramming is a great team building activity - it's fun to see a group of people up at the whiteboard rearranging Post-it notes based on their understanding of the logical groupings and relationships.

Thanks for sharing, Anish!


Anish Abraham Privacy Program Manager| University of Washington Auburn, Wa, USA
Thanks Najam,Eduin and Kiron for your feedback.

William Washinski II Product Owner| Cigna Tampa, Fl, USA
Reminds me of how I conducted an analysis on what I called a "participation rate" which resulted in executing a plan that resulted in a $60,000 ROI over a 3 month period.

Is there any template or model or sample affinity diagram

Luis Branco CEO| Business Insight, Consultores de Gestão, Ldª Carcavelos, Lisboa, Portugal
Dear Anish
Interesting your perspective on the topic: "Use Of Affinity Diagram As A Brainstorming Tool"

Thanks for sharing

Important point to note: "Affinity diagrams are great tools for grouping and understanding large amounts of information."

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