A crowd of people stand in front of a wall of sticky notes. The people are arranged in rows. The front row actively sorts the notes; the rows behind them have various support or preparation functions. Every few seconds, the rows cycle so a new group of people come to the front and every row gets a new role. After a few cycles, the sticky notes are sorted and the group know the content.
Octopus clustering will quickly transform a random cloud of sticky notes into a series of clusters. Use it to sort large numbers of ideas, insights, “How might we ...?” questions, data – anything which can be expressed as a few words or a picture on a sticky note. The method gives everyone an excellent overview of what the material is, and encourages shared ownership of ideas between group members. The new clusters might help the group understand the overarching structure of the material, or suggest different directions for the next step.
Though the description here seems complex, in practice the exercise is very simple and great fun. The following guide takes you through how to set it up, step by step. After you have done it once or twice, most of this will seem obvious.