Which criteria should I take into consideration to decide which affinity diagram is better than the other?

14 Feb 2013 - 5:29am
3 years ago
2 replies
2369 reads

I’m currently conducting a comparative research of traditional vs. online affinity diagramming and I’m wondering how evaluate the output. If two separate groups make an affinity diagram on the same topic which criteria should I take into consideration to decide which affinity diagram is better than the other?

Second question is what in your opinion has significant impact on the quality of affinity diagram?


11 Mar 2013 - 4:55pm

A few thoughts:

(1) By all means, affinity diagram is just a means to gain insights and communicate during the design process. To quote Jon Kolko (note the words in upper case):

"An affinity diagram is a visual representation of a taxonomy, or the words used in the context of a specific design problem. Affinity, meaning likeness, implies a sense of similarity between words. Designers seek this similarity IN ORDER TO IDENTIFY THE CORE FACETS OF A PROBLEM SPACE and to remove elements that hint at so-called edge cases, or less likely scenarios. Generally, an affinity diagram is used during the initial stages of synthesis IN ORDER TO IDENTIFY PATTERNS AND THEMES IN A LARGE QUANTITY OF DATA."

(2) Anything can be mesured. You just need to find a way -- it depends on the specific context of your task at hand: the topic, the field, the clients, and even your personal skill sets and approaches, etc.

(3) IMHO there could hardly be a notion of "this one is better than another" regarding affinity diagram (AD). Different ADs for the same topic are just different ways stakeholders view it in. And one of the best things that could happen is to have different ADs for the same topic, because then you get the chance to ask "why they're different? what factors determine how people perceive it in different ways? etc." and getting to know why could give you valuable insights about the true problem and your clients' needs. Only after that can you start thinking what could be a better design for your clients. Affinity diagram is just a means of gaining insights, and usually it doesn't matter which diagram is "better" than another.

I'm probably not answering your questions. But anyway, tell me what you think.

14 Mar 2013 - 8:18pm
David More

The purpose of affinity diagramming is not to generate a diagram, but to undergo a process of analysis. So, there's not much point in comparing the diagrams themselves... they're almost just a waste product.

When several groups work on the same problem space, the differences in their descriptive frameworks and priorities are usually instructive and can even form the basis of a second-generation affinity diagram.  

Affinity diagramming is a collaborative, social activity. Any online simulation of an affinity diagram will only be effective if it enables or enhances the collaboration between the researchers involved. You need to be able to capture the discourse and the insights that arise, which are often not documented as part of the diagram itself.

Good luck!

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