Workshop Exercises: Decision

Affinity Mapping

Organize and cluster ideas and data based on natural relationships

Illustration of Affinity Mapping
Run a Affinity Mapping play

Also called: Affinity Diagram, Affinity Chart, Theme Sort, JK Method

Timing: Planning

Origin: Jiro Kawakita in the 1960s

Run time
3-15 minutes

Group size

Why: Uncover patterns, generate insights, and facilitate decision-making by visually clustering related items together

When: Use affinity mapping in workshops to categorize and structure ideas, identify common themes, or prioritize actions

This workshop exercise is part of the Workshop Patterns printed card deck.

A collection of workshop exercises that will help you ditch dull meetings and facilitate with confidence. It will help you master the design process and have more productive time with your team. The card deck will be ready for purchase in the end of 2023 and is now undergoing rigorous testing.

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Instructions for running this play

  1. Run a brainstorming session, producing individual sticky notes per idea, leading up to this exercise. Examples are Silent Storming, Starbursting, and Assumptions collection.
  2. Cluster ideas. Ask the group to freely place related sticky notes together in clusters. If two sticky notes are the same, place one of them behind the other one.
  3. Name each cluster. Name each cluster based on its common theme, placing a sticky note on top of it with the name. Double check if clusters can be combined or should be separated.
  4. Review outliers. Some sticky notes may belong in smaller clusters.
  5. Consider using Dot Voting, Blind Voting, or Priority Mapping on each cluster to determine which cluster is more important to the group.

Tips to perfect this play

Master and adapt the play to fit your context and needs.


You can do affinity mapping both as you go and as one compiled and concentrated session


Aim for grouping into 3 to 8 clusters.


Instead of using words, provide participants with drawing materials and ask them to visually represent their ideas or concepts.

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