The Affinity Game

Howdy!

I am very proud of all my sons.  They have each graduated college and are doing fantastic in their fields of endeavor. Especially my son who is a Ph.D. and a tenured college professor. I was amazed that he was published three times as an undergraduate. In all three times, the papers dealt with games. I knew I should’ve stayed in college. That is okay I am developing some new games that we can play.

I hope you were with us in our last session when we discussed and went through a scenario on solving a problem and overcoming a Band-Aid fix.

Every time you have a problem pop up, and is reoccurring, it is developing what we call a hidden factory within your normal life. The hidden factory is something you don’t normally plan on, and yet it happens. Hidden factories steal time and money.  Usually both.

Sometimes we have so many small problems that keep vying for our attention, we don’t know which one to fix first. Sometimes we end up focusing on a small set of problems that are annoyances while missing either more costly problems or items that may be safety issues.

To help keep the larger problems from creeping up on us from behind, it is good to keep an eye on them, and even rank order what you need to fix first and what may be able to wait a little while until you have a better time or better money. To do this, you can play a game with an affinity chart. You can get the whole family, significant others, and/or friends involved in this. I like to make a party out of the affinity game. Have some soda and popcorn or some coffee and cake, or just good friendship. The game requires some post-it notes, a place you can put the Post-it notes, and something to write on them with.

This is a problem hunting game. Think of it this way, what items are giving me grief, taking my time, or taking my money? If I want to save time and money, I need to identify them and start to fix them. If there is something that would cause harm, or flood the house, I want to fix that one first. If I have a screen that is loose, I do want to fix that, I just may need to fix something else first.

In the affinity game,  use five headings.  The headings are People, who are those who are affected, family and/or friends. Plans, they are the overall goals, not just the problems. Processes, how we do things such as pay bills, buy groceries, etc.. Prosperity, the paycheck and other resources we use. Lastly, Papa Nature, the environmental concerns such as living in tornado alley or near a flood plain. You want to write these five areas on separate Post-it notes and place them on a whiteboard, a wall that won’t be marred, or some other flat surface where you can put plenty of other Post-its below each one.

To start out, go around the room, and each person puts one Post-it note under a heading with one item they think could be done better. Just list the item. Don’t give ideas for fixes or long written descriptions now. It is probably good to have somebody act as the facilitator for this. You could even spark interest by having the child or teenager be the facilitator. The facilitator also places post-its on the chart when it is his or her turn.

If more than one person hands in a Post-it note with the same item or nearly the same item on it, that is okay. Put those Post-it notes on top of each other. The fact that there are multiple Post-it notes shows a deeper concern in that area.

You can limit the affinity game to an hour, or you can keep on going until no one else has anything that they can think of to put on a Post-it. The more Post-its, the better because you’re getting ideas out there. And every idea is of value to the person who had it. Every person is also valuable to the family or team as a whole.

When the game is done, everybody should thank each other and tell each other that everyone is important to the family or the team. The nice thing is now you have information.

You have gathered data. It is believed, and talked of, and is yet to be proven. It is, however, valuable data because it is a start.

Next time we will take what has been learned here with the affinity diagram and learn how to use it in our next step.

Thank you for being with us.

Author: Mike Balof

Mike Balof, MEd, develops intensive, interactive courses which have helped contract manufacturing and nonprofit institutions. He taught youth and adults seeking employment to better represent themselves, leading many of them to successful careers. Mike taught in corporate training, teaching adults and high school students to build computers, work as a team, and to identify and fix problems using a myriad of tools from Total Quality Management(TQM), to 8-D, to Six Sigma. Mike now turns his talents to helping fellow veterans reach their objectives and desires through continuous performance improvement. As we start to live in a post knowledge world, where a doubling of common knowledge shrinks from months to days, our essential skills will include how we interact with those around us. Mike believes there is hope for growth and opportunity for everyone. Everyone has the opportunity to retool and find the career they want. Mike strives to present students of all ages, abilities, and means with a full plate of options for learning.

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