Generating ideas can be overwhelming. Sorting out those thoughts can be even more overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many tools and techniques to help you cut through the extra noise to find the original idea or theme within a set of information.

To organize your ideas and find common themes to generate next steps, consider using a common diagramming tool: affinity diagrams.

What is affinity diagram?

One diagrammatic tool for solving problems and getting ideas is an affinity diagram. An affinity diagram is an organizational tool used to sort ideas and data based on their relationship to one another. Affinity diagrams are used to brainstorm and find patterns within data.

To create an affinity diagram, you first record thoughts and observations on separate note cards (or something similar, such as sticky notes). Next, look for common themes among you note cards. Finally, you sort the note cards into groups of general topics.

While you can create affinity diagrams by hand, it is often more effective to create them digitally. One of the best options for creating a digital affinity diagram is Google Jamboard, as you can access Google Jamboard for visual collaboration from anywhere.

1. Create Sticky Notes in Jamboard

To get started creating an affinity diagram, the first thing you need to do is create sticky notes in Google Jamboard. To do this, click on the Sticky Note icon on the left side of the screen. Or, you can use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+Shift+P. You should only put one thought or observation on each sticky note.

Jamboard has five different sticky note colors to choose from. You can put all of your ideas on one color of sticky note, but it’s often helpful to make sticky notes in a variety of colors to help you separate ideas visually.

Once you have finished recording all of your thoughts and observations, you should have a spread of sticky notes (each with only one thought or observation written on it) on your Jamboard to begin categorizing.

2. Create categories of ideas

After you’ve created all your sticky notes, it’s time to look for common patterns in the data. Ask yourself, “What do these notes have in common?” and “Where can I find general topics?”

Write down common themes, similarities, and patterns you see. This is necessary to complete the next step. You can add a list of themes to your Jamboard by clicking on the text box icon on the left side of the screen.

You may find that you don’t use all of the topics that you write about. He is alright! At this stage, it is important to generate a list of possible patterns.

3. Organize Sticky Notes into Categories

Once you have a list of themes and patterns, it’s time to sort the sticky notes into groups. Create headers for each theme or pattern using the text box icon. Next, place the sticky notes under the appropriate headers.

Once all the sticky notes are arranged, draw borders around each category. You can do this by clicking on the shape icon on the left side of the screen. You have to right-click on the size and choose Order, then Send Back. This will prevent the shape from blocking your sticky notes, but allow you to keep the border.

Now you have a visual representation of the ideas and common themes within the data, so you can begin taking the next steps in your project. When you see the pattern in front of you, it becomes easier to figure out what actions need to be taken to progress your project.

Affinity diagrams lead to next steps

Affinity diagrams are useful when trying to sort large amounts of information. By separating your thoughts or comments into separate sticky notes, you can focus on finding commonalities in your information rather than becoming overwhelmed by it.

Once you’re able to find those commonalities, you can see what the next steps in your project should be, whether that means making changes to the prototype, going back to collect more data, or scrapping the entire project. Kind of something else.

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