Posted on

Affinity Map

Affinity mapping, originally uploaded by dgray_xplane.

Object of Play

Most of us are familiar with brainstorming—a method by which a group generates as many ideas around a topic as possible in a limited amount of time. Brainstorming works to get a high quantity of information on the table. But it begs the follow-up question of how to gather meaning from all the data. Using a simple Affinity Diagram technique can help us discover embedded patterns (and sometimes break old patterns) of thinking by sorting and clustering language-based information into relationships. It can also give us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused. Use an affinity diagram when you want to find categories and meta-categories within a cluster of ideas and when you want to see which ideas are most common within the group.

Number of Players: Up to 20

Duration of Play: Depends on the number of players, but a maximum of 1.5 hours

How to Play

1. On a sheet of flip-chart paper, write a question the players will respond to along with a visual that complements it. Conduct this game only when you have a question for the players that you know will generate at least 20 pieces of information to sort.

2. Ask each player to take 10 minutes to generate sticky notes in response to the question. Use index cards on a table if you have a group of four or less. Conduct this part of the process silently.

3. Collect the ideas from the group and post them on a flat working surface visible to everyone. It should end up resembling the following figure.

4. Based on guidance from the players, sort the ideas into columns (or clusters) based on relationships. Involve the group in the process as much as possible. Have the players approach the wall to post their notes—it saves time—and allow them to do an initial, general sorting in columns or clusters.

5. Create a sticky-note “parking lot” close to the display for ideas that don’t appear to fall into a natural category. Redundancy in ideas is OK; don’t discard sticky notes because they’re already represented. It’s helpful to leave repeated ideas posted since it indicates to the group how many people are thinking the same thing. At this stage, ask the players to try to avoid searching for higher categories and simply to focus on grouping the information based on the affinities.

6. Once the content is sorted, ask the group to suggest categories that represent the columns you’ve created and write the categories they agree on at the top of the column (or near a cluster if you chose a cluster rather than a column display). Don’t let the players spend an inordinate amount of time agreeing on a name for a category. If there’s disagreement over “Facilities” versus “Infrastructure,” write them both. If the players produce categories that are significantly different, pay attention to which category gets the most approval from the group and write that one. Your visual may end up looking like the one below.

Strategy

The value of the Affinity Diagram game increases when two conditions are met. The first is that the players generate multiple data points, ideally with good information. The second relates to the quality of the sorting. The cleaner the players’ insights when they form relationships within the content, the better the categories will be.

Fun, optional activity: Run through the Affinity Diagram game once, complete with categorizations. Then ask the group to reshuffle the sticky

notes and recombine the ideas based on affinities they didn’t notice in the first round.

Sometimes affinities within content are crystal clear, so the sorting becomes less pivotal, but when those relationships are more nuanced, it’s more important that the sorting process is done well. In a situation in which there are many ways to affinitize information, assume a stronger facilitative role. Ask questions about the columns or clusters to clarify the group’s thinking and steer them toward an appropriate number of categories. If there are too many, the data gets watered down. If there are too few, the analysis gets watered down. Help the players find the sweet spot.

The affinity diagram was devised by Jiro Kawakita in the 1960s. It is also referred to as the KJ Method.

Posted on

Value Map

Index cards

Object of play

The end goal of value mapping is to build a visual matrix that quickly and clearly defines areas of interest for something – it can be a service, a product, a plan, a website. It consists of asking people to choose a limited number of features from a bigger collection and then plotting their choices against a matrix. The result can be presented back in a template that resembles a light box, with items that were chosen more times being lit up by brighter colors and items chosen fewer times by weaker colors.

Number of players: 5 – 30

Duration of play: 15  minutes – 2 hours

How to play

This game has three main parts:

1.  Define features and their groups: draw sketches or write down on cards the features or items you want participants to attribute value to. Group them in a way that makes sense to you and plot them on a table that represents these groups

2.  Play: show the collection of feature cards to participants, and ask them to choose a smaller number than the total, so that they need to make choices and leave some features out. A good ratio is 1:3, that is, if you have 30 cards ask people to choose only 10. Another way of doing this is to provide them with imaginary money – say £100 – and tell them they can use this budget to ‘shop’ for features. Keep a record of each participant’s choices.

3. Plotting results: color the cards on the original table according to the number of times they got chosen. Cards that were chosen more times can be colored with stronger or brighter colors, and cards that were chosen less times should be colored with light colors. Cards that were never chosen should remain ‘uncolored’. The matrix should now give you a good – and visual – idea of what areas were received with more interest, and which were not.

Strategy

Value mapping allows you to quickly visualize things that are valued by others – consumers, members of a team, your department, your stakeholders. Understanding general areas of interest can help focus the work (where should we concentrate our efforts?) and to settle internal disputes (“consumers really didn’t like any of the social networking features for this application, so we don’t need to invest in them now”). Try presenting the matrix in a series of slides that show different color groups – it really makes an impression!