Lately I’ve been tapping into the power of collaborative planning with MindMeister, an online ‘mind mapping’ tool. I work with a virtual team of professionals and last week we used MindMeister to brainstorm about a new project. If you’ve never used it, you can set up a free account to try the software and view a demo here.
The data that you create is stored on the company’s server, which might bother people who are not ready to ‘think cloud’, but this features makes your info secure and accessible anytime, anywhere.
I used MindMeister in a webinar meeting with 6 other people. We all had shared access to the organizer’s desktop and a Mind Map document, which is used to create a visual outline of your project phases. During the first part of our meeting, we spent about 15 minutes typing our input into categories such as Problems, Ideas, etc. Afterwards, we took turns discussing what had been posted. By the end of the webinar, we had identified key issues, viable ideas, and better understood what needed to happen next in terms of planning.
+ Impressed by how the tool increased productive collaboration.
+/- Some features of the tool were not immediately intuitive and I made a mistake inputting a comment, but I could easily fix it.
– A free account limits you to three Mind Maps. So at some point, you need to make a decision on how much you love, like or hate MindMeister.
* We assigned one person to be a moderator to help facilitate the brainstorming process while people built-out the Mind Map. This contributed to our successful experience with the tool.
* I liked MindMeister but there other free alternative tools, such as FreeMind, you can discover some of them here.
Online collaboration is not for the timid – it is a group process but you should not hold back on individual opinions or ideas. Participation equals creative synergy, there are no right or wrong ideas in a good brainstorming session.
Sometimes a new way of looking at the planning process can deliver a creative advantage and make a defining difference in the outcome.