Affinity Diagrams

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What is it?

Affinity Diagrams (also called KJ Diagrams, after Kawakita Jiro) are used to organize ideas based on their natural relationships. These diagrams reveal new patterns and relationships between ideas, leading to more creative solutions.

Why is it important?

Help organize and communicate ideas to all team members in a quick easy to understand manner.

When to use it?

Affinity Diagrams are particularly useful for organizing solutions after a brainstorming session that has generated a large number of ideas (generally >15 sets of information). These are usually used in group problem solving, however, individuals can successfully use them for problem solving.

How to use it?

  • State the problem
    In broad terms, state the problem that is to be considered. Avoid detailed problem statements.
  • Develop ideas on causes of, or solutions to, the problem
    Brainstorming ideas using brief statements. Statements should be as concise as possible while still having a clear meaning.
  • Record the responses on 3x5 index cards
    Record the responses from the group on index cards and place the cards randomly in the middle of a table or post all the cards on a bulletin board or a wall.
  • Sort the cards into piles of related ideas
    Ask the group to sort the cards into piles or topics of related ideas. Limit the number of piles to about five categories. Use the team members' intuition for this exercise.
  • Identify the theme of each pile of cards
    For each pile of cards, pick a card that best represents the theme of the pile. Put that card on the top. Create one if needed.
  • Create an Affinity Diagram using the pile of cards
    Document the diagram.



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