Affinity Mapping

Affinity mapping is used to group and understand information. It is a good way of identifying and analysing issues. Affinity mapping can be used in agile or workshop environment where participants need to work together to identify, discuss and group issues.
How is Affinity Mapping Done?
Affinity diagramming involves putting related items together. Small sets of data can be placed together electronically, but it’s still better to do it on paper. Using paper is advised in group situations. Items are gathered by similarity and this similarity has to be estimated. It’s usually a physical activity and needs a small number of items. The groupings are linked to a numerical estimate if preferred.
If there’s a pre-existing set of data, you can print these on cards or labels or paper and cut them to the right size. In group situations, post-it notes can be given to members. You can ask your group members to write one issue on every note. Give members some time to do this, but you should ask them to stop when most of the participants have stopped.
Call all participants and assemble at a vertical surface appropriate for post-it notes. Encourage everyone to put their notes on the surface one at a time. As every note is placed, other members may add related notes nearby. Depending on group dynamics, data being examined and amount of time, spending some extra time considering and reorganising the groups may be necessary. Once all notes have been gathered, you can name every group. This step is optional.
If the number of participants is more than eight, it may not be very convenient to gather around a common area. You can place all the notes on your own and get one note from every participant in turn. All of them can then give you any related notes. This may not be as suitable as getting the group to work together. This is because keeping everyone focused on the activity can be difficult. Affinity mapping is certainly a great tool if the result of the activity can be followed up fast. For instance, with affinity mapping, the group can discuss methods to address and solve various issues.
Things to Keep In Mind
If you’re managing the activity, you should always pay attention or you may not know what’s happening and it will be hard for you to understand the data structure. All group members should also be allowed to contribute. There may be a person who wants to control the positioning and move the notes. Don’t let this happen. Never move anybody’s note without their consent or agreement. Discussion with group members will often mean that someone wanted to bring up a different matter. You should encourage all members to put one note at a time and read them aloud.
Affinity mapping can also be exhausting. Don’t let the activity go beyond the point of boredom or exhaustion. There should be no more than two successive affinity mapping assemblies during a workshop. Since the resultant groupings are random, you should be flexible in the way you use information.

— Slimane Zouggari