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Product Management: Affinity Grouping

Definition: Affinity grouping can be used as a collaborative prioritization activity. It works by having your group of participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities on Post-It Notes. The team then works to put the sticky notes into groups of similar items. Once the groups are created, the team votes on the groups to rank them.

What is affinity grouping?

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization and brainstorming technique with many different possible applications. This article will provide a broad overview of the process as well as some tips for product managers who want to use affinity grouping to prioritize their product roadmap.

The general idea behind affinity grouping is simple. Participants get together and brainstorm several ideas and opportunities. Then, the group works together to sort their new ideas into thematic clusters. After establishing several “affinity groups” of initiatives, the group can vote and rank each group. At the end of the activity, you’ll have a prioritized list of new ideas.example of what affinity grouping activity may look like

How to Facilitate an Affinity Grouping Activity

Affinity grouping does not need to be an extremely formal or complicated activity. Here’s how to facilitate a very basic session.

  1. Get a group of participants together. Ideally participants from various parts within the organization can participate so you get a wide variety of ideas and perspectives.
  2. As a group, write down as many ideas as possible. You can use Post-It notes, note cards, a white board, or even a piece of paper.
  3. Work with participants to sort through your ideas and group similar ideas into “affinity groups.” These help keep ideas organized by themes.
  4. As a group, vote on different themes. You can treat this like a buy-a-feature prioritization session, or simply have everyone work as a group to rank the themes by importance.

For more information, see Jim Semick’s video on how to prioritize using affinity grouping.

When to Use Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping activities are useful for product teams in need of ways to collaboratively brainstorm new projects and features. These activities are great opportunities to bring together members from various functional departments. In addition, they allow other teams (i.e. marketing, sales, etc.) to actively participate in product roadmapping and have a say in the product.