We get the occasional mail from users who are happily using MindNode as their personal brainstorming tool and are wondering if, or rather how, they can be using MindNode in a session with multiple people.
A group environment is quite different from a solo one. MindNode follows a very simplistic, solo approach to mind mapping and brainstorming. This has some very distinct advantages in a group environment, too, as we will soon discover. Some disadvantages as well, which we won't neglect either.
First the downsides, with the most obvious one being: collaboration. Sometimes users ask us how to work collaboratively on one and the same mind map. With iCloud as one of the backbones of MindNode's document structure it is not that easy for us to build a workflow that truly and flawlessly works for multiple people at the same time. While this sounds like a huge disadvantage and major setback quite the opposite is true, as our observations go. Let me explain.
When multiple people work on a document there are two use models: one is where multiple users work at the same time to brainstorm collaboratively, the other is where multiple users "log" an idea occasionally. In the second example a mind map is used for documentation purposes. In the first example a mind map is used by many people at once, to work on creative ideas, making nodes branch off in multiple directions, growing a mind map quickly. We found that in this example, where quick jotting down of ideas is most important, it is not always recommendable to let multiple people work on one and the same document at once. An example. In a meeting we have five people. Every person has a device in front running MindNode. The main topic is "New Website". There are two engineers, two designers, and one manager. All five agree that the new website has a part "backend", a part "frontend", and a part "organization". While the engineers will probably have it easier to generate new ideas in the "backend" branch, things related to their own tasks on engineering. The designers will find it easier to think of things they will have to do, like "new logo", "decide on new font", etc. And lastly our manager will hear both of these departments thinking "when does one thing have to be ready so the other party has everything they need so they can start their work?" We now have three groups thinking in unrelated directions. Imagine what a meeting that would be. One group with five people, quickly becomes three groups. If every group started to write everything down only in their department, the other two groups will have no idea what the others just decided. They won't be able to influence ideas, see directions, or form the opinions based on the other parties. That is not very creative.
It is most often better to elect one person as mediator. This person is the only one allowed to add new branches to a map. The mediator is something like a CPU. Central, everything has to go through them, no way around it. This has two very important advantages:
- The mediator acts as a filter. Because everything now has to be typed in by the mediator, he or she also has to decide whether something is actually worth noting down. While all ideas are important, not everything is important enough to be written down. If something has been written down and the discussion evolves around some other topic at the moment, the mediator can decide to fold nodes up to increase the focus on the current topic.
- Because everything now has to go through the mediator, some ideas are not more important than others. First come, first serve. The person writing has their own speed at which they type and work with MindNode. No one can increase their speed just to get their idea written down first. When things get chaotic I personally often find that this creates structure naturally. People now have to wait before they are heard fully. This makes people often reconsider their thoughts, sometimes resulting in higher-quality ideas.
Working in MindNode with multiple people is really more of a group activity, therefore you can approach your meetings like that. Depending on the type of meeting it may be advisable to plan individual groups too. When I wrote earlier that individual groups don't work so well when they are working on one and the same document, they do work much better when each group gets their own document, and mediator. There's multiple things you can do to achieve this.
- One person prepares the document for the individual groups. Either before the meeting begins or during the meeting.
- The groups get an individual document where their branch is…:
- …detached from the main node: the copied node is contained in a new document, containing only its branch and subnodes.
- …still attached and the document itself is a copy of the original master: this has the advantage that all groups have the same starting point, but they are also able to take a peek at what the other groups are given.
During the many years I've been using MindNode in multiple environments and in discussions with professionals around the globe these are the most important things they've landed on.