Convergence: Clustering in Columns

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Alternative names: 
Organizing or Gestaling
Level of process: 
Method category: 
Intent or purpose: 
To identify similar ideas and to put them together and to create a pattern based on an agreed to set of values.
Used as component of: 
The convergence part of a workshop.
Types of Participants: 
Recommended size of group: 
Optimal amount of time needed: 
6 - 18 min.
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
Agreed categories of ideas
Level of participation: 
Potential Pitfalls: 
Vague brainstorm answers, shifting organizing principle
How is success evaluated: 
Agreed to clusters of ideas
Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: 
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
Facilitation skills required
Facilitator Personality Fit: 
pretty analytical process
Resources Needed: 
Bid white board, sticky wall or blank wall that sheets of paper can be put on.
Pre-Work Required: 
decide the organizing principle

1. This is a standard way of organizing similar ideas into clusters.<br>
2. The idea behind this is that we will develop a pattern from the list of ideas that we have created. <br>
3. We are going to organize these by similar actions. <i>(?Similar actions? is the organizing principle. It could be similar elements of a vision, similar strategic directions, similar root causes, etc.)</i>

1. <i>See the form at the bottom and prepare a wall, white board or sticky wall in this format. The number of columns depends on the number of items. This one has 12 and can handle up to 50 ? 150 or more items. Up to 15 columns can handle up to 200 items. When there are more than 250 items consider using the alternative approach.</i><br>
2. <i>The number items, the number of people and whether or not you use teams all determine how the workshop will be done. These procedures assumes that there are 10 to 15 people not working in teams and each person has generated 20 items. This is from 200 to 300 ideas. Many of these will be duplicates. We think that from 1/3 to ? will be unique.</i><br>
3. <i>The brainstorming exercise has asked people to put each idea on one sheet of paper or post-it (We use A4 (8 ? x 11?) or A5 (8 ? x 5 ??) sheets for this size groups)</i><br>
4. <i>Explain the process and ask for the two most concrete or specific items from each person (the type of idea asked for varies depending on the type of workshop. You can ask for the best, most creative, the most important, etc.)</i>. <br>
5. <i>You should have about 30 cards. Put one up at the top of a centre column. Show the next card and ask if this is similar to the one already up. (Unless two ideas are almost identical it is better to keep them separate but near each other so in adjacent columns. It is easier to put things together than to take them apart.)</i><br>
6. <i> Keep doing this until you have put up all 30 cards. (If you run out of space use the bottom half of the board as a separate set of columns and give them separate symbols..)</i><br>
7. <i>Ask that each person send up 2 cards are the most different from any of those up now. (This will help determine the breadth of ideas present in the room.)</i><br>
8. <i>Go though the columns as give them a one or two word holding title.</i><br>
9. <i>Follow the same process as 4 and 5.</i><br>
10. <i>About 60 cards are up. Repeat 6 and 7 asking for the most different again. And now you should have 90 ideas on the board.</i><br>
11. <i>Modify the holding titles if necessary.</i><br>
12. <i>If it seems that most of the ideas are up go to step 13, otherwise repeat 4 and 5 again.</i><br>
13. <i>If it looks like most of the unique ideas are now on the board you can move much faster. Ask everyone to put the symbol of the column (cluster) on each of his or her cards. If they think their card does not fit into a cluster put a question mark on it. If they think it goes into two or more clusters put a question mark on it.<i><br>
14. <i>Ask how many question marks there are. If there are a few ask that all of them be sent up to you. Select a card and ask the group which cluster they think the card goes into. Several things can happen. A new cluster can be created. The card goes into an existing cluster. The card actually has two or more ideas and it can be split into parts. The different parts can create a new cluster or go into existing clusters. Normally, they go into an existing cluster.</i><br>
15. <i>Ask people to recheck the symbols on their cards, if new clusters have been created.</i><br>
16. <i>Put up the cards (or ask everyone to put their own up.</i><br>
17. <i>Now check the size of the clusters.</i> <br>
a. <i>If a cluster has only one or two cards you have to ask if it should go with some other cluster. It may not but normally it does.</i> <br>
b. <i>If a cluster is very much bigger than any other cluster, you need to ask if it does not need to be broken up into two or more clusters.</i> <br>
18. <i>Now is the time to name. We use a structured approach to naming. We might use a three-word title with two adjectives and one noun such as, STANDARDIZED REPORTING PROCEDURES. In this case it is a hope. It can be an action then the structure would be verb, adjective, and noun such as, PUBLISH INTERNAL NEWSLETTER.</i><br>
19. <i>Go through the columns and ask the group for names. We usually go with a very obvious one that should be easy to do. We then move to the most difficult ones and finally, the middle hard ones.</i>

1. <i>When the process is done thank the group and go to the next step.</i>
<i>It is best done with a large number of ideas 25 - 200. Naturally the more ideas the more time required.</i>

How flexible is the process?: 
Follow-Up Required: 
the closing of the workshop or next steps
File attachments: 
Microsoft Office document icon Normal_Clustering.doc56 KB
Derived from: 
ICA's ToP methods
History of Development: 

Variations of this process were being done in the early 1960's by the ICA, In the summer of 1971 these procedures were written out in a simpler form. They went through various changes and adaptations for community and business planning process. This draft was created in 2005.

Selected publications: 
9076908028 0840361963 0865714703 097297640X
See books
License Model: 
Name Citysort descending Country
CFI Syllab Inc. Montreal Canada
Name Citysort descending Country
CFI Syllab Inc. Montreal Canada