This team activity creatively demonstrates the use of the affinity diagram “tool” and works great in a group of 10 to 30 people. The exercise takes 15 to 20 minutes and you will need label nametags and a pen.
You will need a space large enough for the team to mingle about and gather in a large circle. Before you begin your team’s brainstorming and affinity diagram session, introduce this activity as a fun, creative way to demonstrate how the affinity diagram works. Begin by handing out one nametag to each team member. Ask them to privately write down the name of a famous person – alive or dead, real or fictional.
Once they have each written down a name, ask them to place the nametag on the back of the person sitting to their right. (Keep in mind that if you are sitting in any type of configuration other than circular, you may have to walk the end person’s nametag over to the “first” person.)
Ask the team members if they remember the game “Twenty Questions.” Explain the directions by saying, “This step is the same as ‘Twenty Questions’ in that you can ask only close-ended questions of your teammates until you guess the right name. Once you have guessed the correct name on your nametag, move the nametag from your back to your front.” Encourage mingling and asking different people different questions.
After five minutes, if you still have some team members with nametags on their backs, tell the team members to offer a “clue.” Within two minutes, all team members should have the nametags on their front.
Explain to the team they now have a “brainstorm list” of famous people. Now they will do the “silent sort” – the real power of the affinity diagram. Ask the team members to silently move next to the famous person that they think they have an “affinity” with, or with whom they have something in common.
Allow the team to “silent sort” (you may have to reinforce the silence with a few “shhhhhs”). When they are close to being done (this should only take a minute or two), start humming the Jeopardy theme song, and when done, don’t allow them to move from the cluster.
Once the song ends, tell them to look around and see if there is a better “fit” for them. It’s okay to move from one “cluster” of famous people to another “cluster.” If team members don’t think they have anything in common, assure them that it is okay to “stand alone.”
Go to each cluster and ask them for a word, phrase or statement that captures the flavor of the famous people in that cluster.
Debrief and Summarize
Summarize by restating the cluster “headers” and the idea that they took a brainstormed list of famous people and very quickly grouped them into creative, innovative clusters.
- How can we apply this to our current situation?
- When should we use this tool in future situations?
If you like this activity, check out my book, Team Energizers, for 49 other team activities!