What is affinity grouping?

Affinity grouping (AG) is the method of gathering and grouping together bits of qualitative (non-numerical) data based on commonalities between the collected pieces.

You can use affinity grouping to rank in a group setting. It works by having your group of participants use Post-It Notes to brainstorm ideas and opportunities. After that, the team organizes the sticky notes into groupings of like-items. After that, the team votes to rank.

Affinity grouping is a prioritization and brainstorming strategy that your product managers can use in various ways. This article will give a general overview of the approach and some pointers for product managers who want to prioritize their product roadmap using affinity grouping.

The Role of Affinity Grouping

Ideas or proposals from a collaborative meeting and the procedures required to implement a new process are examples of data that lend themselves well to affinity grouping. For example, you can discuss ideas for improving user satisfaction or looking at new revenue streams for your company’s growth.

The basic concept behind this strategy is straightforward. Participants get together and brainstorm a variety of possibilities and ideas. The group then collaborates to group their fresh ideas into topic clusters. The group can vote and rank each group after forming many “affinity groups” of ideas. At the end of the activity, you’ll have a prioritized list of new ideas.

Affinity grouping offers many potential applications, but the most typical ones are for design creativity and employee feedback collecting, respectively.

For example, you might convene your UX team to brainstorm prospective design enhancements for an app that you’re developing. As a result, team members will put dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas forward, and you will repeat the process.

Trying to distill these thoughts into practical goals will make your head spin unless you have access to affinity groupings to aid you.

Because participants were able to go through the material as a group and then map it into consensual, prioritized tasks, the meeting was a success, and everyone’s time there was well spent.

Affinity grouping necessitates a significant amount of management. Taking the initiative right from the start and getting people invested in the process is critical to a successful outcome.

That person is also responsible for maintaining the meeting’s energy, which is not an easy assignment because some affinity group meetings can efficiently run a couple of hours!

Finally, they must oversee the voting process and ensure that everyone in attendance has an opportunity to voice their opinions on which affinity groups should take precedence over others.

It can also be challenging to elicit ideas from participants, and disagreements may emerge due to the divergence of viewpoints. However, having a manager, or even just a committed meeting leader, oversee the affinity grouping session from beginning to end can easily overcome these difficulties.

How to Use Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping can only be effective if the pieces of information are physically captured on something small — a Post-It note or flashcard are the ideal options. Everyone present at the meeting should be encouraged to participate and provide their thoughts.

Then there’s the process of affinity grouping, which is going over each of the concepts one by one and looking for commonalities between them. Everyone who has contributed to this project should be included in a collaborative process.

The first concept provides the basis of the first affinity group. The remaining ideas are placed in the same group if they are related to a common topic or placed in a new group if they have no resemblance to any of the other concepts in the group. Soon, patterns will develop, and objects will begin to link up, illuminating the best methods to harness the data through an affinity diagram to maximize its effectiveness.

You can sort items depending on which department they pertain to, which business purpose they support, which user result they refer to, or any other topic that makes sense for your company under the umbrella term of affinity grouping.

You may be familiar with the idea of a wall covered in Post-It notes of various colors on which you can write your thoughts. Although it appears to be a jumbled mess, this is an example of affinity grouping.

The final step in the affinity grouping process involves everyone voting on which you should prioritize categories over others. Actions are then agreed upon as a result of the vote results.

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