Affinity Clustering is a utility method to group similar ideas together and visualize their connection by forming clusters. This allows everyone to see how ideas are related to each other.
This is a great method to organize large amounts of information (e.g many ideas on sticky notes). At the end of Affinity Clustering, all the information will be sorted into neat clusters with related sticky notes.
There are two ways to do Affinity Clustering: One sticky note at a time, or all of them in parallel. For the second option, you need the help of 2-4 people.
Approach 1: Cluster sticky notes in parallel
Explain to the group, what the idea of Affinity Clustering is. Afterward, ask 2-4 people to help you to create clusters by putting sticky notes into topical groups. At the same time, it's good the keep the conversation going and exchange information about the content of the clusters and sticky notes.
[.box-highlight] Tip: If you want to speed up this process, propose a couple of clusters that you already observed. Create the title of the cluster on a large sticky note and hang it to the side of all other sticky notes. [.box-highlight]
Approach 2: Cluster sticky notes one at a time
For this approach, take one sticky note at a time and ask the group if that sticky note is similar to what was previously sorted into clusters. This approach takes more time but can lead to giving higher-quality clusters.
Imagine, that you did a Rose, Thorn, Bud reflection with your team on projects, communication, and collaboration during the last month. At the end of this reflection, it's helpful to see how everyone's sticky notes relate to each other.
This is a great use case for Affinity Clustering. Since it's the same topic, there will be natural overlaps of sticky notes that are written down. Here is how it could look at the end of the process.