Affinity Grouping And Why It Matters In Business

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

Understanding affinity grouping

Affinity grouping can be used to:

  • Identify design improvements for an app.
  • Classify information gathered via interviews, surveys, or general observations. For example, employee feedback.
  • Create a diagram showing the relationship between factors influencing an issue or problem.

The process begins with group members collaboratively brainstorming ideas or opportunities using Post-It Notes. 

Then, each idea or opportunity is sorted according to thematic clusters called “affinity groups”. In business, these groups may have themes relating to driving revenue, increasing customer satisfaction, or enhancing performance.

Implementing the affinity grouping technique

The process of affinity grouping is neither formal nor overly structured. Nevertheless, teams should follow this basic order of steps:

  1. Brainstorm ideas around a central issue or problem. Record each idea on a Post-It Note.
  2. Randomly place each idea on a large table or surface.
  3. Without deliberation, group ideas together if they appear to be related. Team members are free to add new ideas to the mix while grouping is occurring.
  4. Continue until all ideas have been grouped. Some ideas will have to be set aside because they don’t belong to a particular theme. At this stage, there should be no more than 10 groups formed.
  5. The team should then formulate short and descriptive sentences that describe each group. For best results, avoid one or two word titles. If descriptive sentences cause conflict with the ideas in one group, move certain ideas to another group or create copies so that one idea can occupy two groups.
  6. With each title, brainstorm some new ideas and classify them accordingly. 
  7. Lastly, the group should determine which categories should be prioritized based on a vote.

The role of the facilitator in affinity grouping

Affinity grouping is a simple process, but it requires a reasonable degree of management

A good facilitator is crucial in getting participants invested and maintaining that investment over meetings that can last hours.

Affinity grouping facilitators should also:

  • Clarify ground rules. It’s important to identify the team sponsor or the individual with the issue that needs to be addressed by the team. Team selection is also vital – each individual must have relevant expertise and be willing to engage in creative thinking.
  • Maintain silence. Affinity grouping should be performed in silence, particularly when ideas are being generated and grouped. A good facilitator ensures that silence is upheld and that the dominant personality does not jeopardize the “democratic” nature of the technique.
  • Clarify context and encourage ideas. The context must be established at the beginning of affinity grouping. This helps the technique stay focused on the matter at hand. Furthermore, all ideas should be encouraged and not dismissed before they’ve been analyzed.

Key takeaways:

  • Affinity grouping is a brainstorming method used to generate and organise ideas according to their likeness.
  • Affinity grouping can be used to identify design improvements for an app, gather employee feedback, or show the relationship between factors as they contribute to a problem.
  • Affinity grouping does require the services of a good facilitator who clarifies ground rules and context. They also ensure that the process is performed in silence so that dominant personalities do not compromise results.

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

Connected Business Concepts

Market segmentation is the process of dividing the market into sub-groups. Market segmentation can be based on characteristics such as age, behaviors, income levels, and more. This process helps to understand what your key customers want, where they are, and how to talk to them effectively.
Customer segmentation is a marketing method that divides the customers into sub-groups, that share similar characteristics. Thus, product, marketing and engineering teams can center the strategy from go-to-market to product development and communication around each sub-group. Customer segments can be broken down is several ways, such as demographics, geography, psychographics and more.
Customer development is a formal process of identifying potential customers and determining how to meet their needs using testable hypotheses. Entrepreneur and business professor Steve Blank highlighted the Customer Development Manifesto principles in The Startup Owner’s Manual as the core principles for modern startups.
The PIE framework is an idea prioritization tool used in A/B testing. The PIE framework was created by WiderFunnel founder Chris Goward to help businesses identify which idea they should test first. The framework is one of several prioritization frameworks, but it is most associated with A/B testing to monitor conversion rates on websites.
Consumer-to-manufacturer (C2M) is a model connecting manufacturers with consumers. The model removes logistics, inventory, sales, distribution, and other intermediaries enabling consumers to buy higher quality products at lower prices. C2M is useful in any scenario where the manufacturer can react to proven, consolidated, consumer-driven niche demand.
Psychosizing is a form of market analysis where the size of the market is guessed based on the targeted segments’ psychographics. In that respect, according to psychosizing analysis, we have five types of markets: microniches, niches, markets, vertical markets, and horizontal markets. Each will be shaped by the characteristics of the underlying main customer type.
A market type is a way a given group of consumers and producers interact, based on the context determined by the readiness of consumers to understand the product, the complexity of the product; how big is the existing market and how much it can potentially expand in the future.
Marketing consultant Philip Kotler developed the Five Product Levels model. He asserted that a product was not just a physical object but also something that satisfied a wide range of consumer needs. According to that Kotler identified five types of products: core product, generic product, expected product, augmented product, and potential product.
By definition, a horizontal market is a wider market, serving various customer types, needs and bringing to market various product lines. Or a product that indeed can serve various buyers across different verticals. Take the case of Google, as a search engine that can serve various verticals and industries (education, publishing, e-commerce, travel, and much more).

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"