Definition: A group decision-making technique designed to sort a large number of ideas, process variables, concepts, and opinions into naturally related groups. These groups are connected by a simple concept.
Purpose: To sort a list of ideas into groups.
Insure ideas are described with phrases or sentences.
Minimize the discussion while sorting -- discuss while developing the header cards.
Aim for 5-10 groups.
If one group is much larger than others, consider splitting it.
How to Conduct an Affinity Sort:
1. Conduct a brainstorming session on the topic under investigation.
2. Clarify the list of ideas. Record them on small cards or Post-It notes.
3. Randomly lay out cards on a table, flipchart, wall, etc.
4. Without speaking, sort the cards into "similar" groups based on your gut reaction. If you don't like the placement of a particular card, move it. Continue until consensus is reached.
5. Create header cards consisting of a concise 3-5 word description; the unifying concept for the group. Place header card at top of each group.
6. Discuss the groupings and try to understand how the groups relate to each other.
Inquire whether ideas are adequately clarified.
Use only 3-5 words in the phrase on the header card to describe the group.
If possible, have groupings reviewed by non-team personnel.
While sorting, physically get up and gather around the area where the cards are placed.
Team members will ultimately reach agreement on placement, if for no other reason than exhaustion.
Sorting should not start until all team members are ready.
If an idea fits in more than one category or group, and consensus about placement cannot be reached, make a second card and place it in both groups.