Affinity Diagram

Published on March 29, 2019 by

Themes: , , ,


To organise the material in meaningful groupings under appropriate headings


The use of an Affinity Diagram encourages people to think inventively and make non-traditional connections in their ideas


Two to Three Hours


A big sheet of paper, post-it notes, header cards


In Small Groups


You can do this design activity in the following way: firstly, phrase the issue under discussion in a full sentence e.g. ‘Why are patients waiting so long for test results?’ and participants then silently record their responses on post-it notes. As a minimum, they should use a noun and a verb; ideally there should be four to seven words in each statement. Randomly lay out the post-it notes on the big sheet of paper. Without any discussion, the members of the group then individually sorts the post-its into 5-10 groupings/themes: if someone disagrees with a grouping, they can move the post-it, but without discussion. Next, through a rapid team consensus, the group creates a summary or header card for each grouping to encapsulate the main theme: avoid one-word headers. Draw and record the finished diagram by connecting all the header cards with their groupings. Finally, review the result with the team and other key people (stakeholders).


  • Neutral, positive or negative statements can all work well in addition to solution questions
  • A typical affinity diagram would have 40-60 items, but could have 100-200 ideas depending on the complexity of the problem
  • Large groups of post-its may need to be divided into sub groups
  • You may find it helpful to move headers and groups into a logical sequence



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