MindJet Catalyst: Real-Time Collaboration in Mind Maps

Mind maps, diagrams used to represent words, ideas or tasks linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea, provide a useful visual way to organize and share information. Mindjet Catalyst brings mind mapping features and functionality to the cloud. Using Catalyst, dispersed teams can collaboratively co-edit mind maps in real-time, which not only lets team members share information, but can also boost understanding and stimulate more creative and critical thinking.
“Mind mapping solo is a great way to get ideas out of your head and into a visual form that you can organize and use to think with,” said Carola Thompson, senior director of user experience at Mindjet. “Mind mapping in a group is similar in that you get ideas out of heads, but as a group you have more ideas to draw from.  This is particularly powerful in the ideation phase of a project.”

Mind Mapping This Post

During my research into collaborative mind mapping and the Catalyst service, Thompson shared a map with me that she had created based on our conversations and emails. In the map, Thompson provided the highlights of our previous discussions, then added her comments and quotes under relevant topic areas.
“A hint on reading mindmaps,” she told me. “Read them as you would a clock.  Start at 12 noon and work your way around the circle clockwise.”

Catalyst addresses many of the issues I’ve seen crop up with attempts at collaborative mind mapping using other tools:

  • Lack of real-time editing capabilities.
  • Risk of overwriting someone else’s data if two or more people are in the same map at the same time.
  • A danger of the map becoming bloated as everyone chimes in.
Using Catalyst, you can bring multiple people into the same map to help organize the team’s ideas, see when others are editing the map, and give permissions to team members to determine how they can interact with the map: read-only, write or admin level permissions.

“It’s a bit like ‘yellow stickies,’ but electronic,” said Thompson. “You may have collisions or two people attempting to organize the same topic, but the presence tools such as chat and editing indicators help enable users to coordinate their work in a virtual setting much as they would on a wall of stickies.”
Parker H. Trewin, director of global communications at Mindjet, also added his thoughts to the collaborative mapping for this post.
“The map is a living document of the group’s collective thinking, and is always up-to-date,” said Trewin (via the map). “With a shared workspace, all my team members can access a joint map and co-create and co-edit ideas, plans and strategies with dispersed team members at any time, from anywhere. Think of it as corporate crowdsourcing where I leverage the collective thinking of my team in real-time. I can then share the thinking in shared workspace for the team.”
Catalyst integrates with other Mindjet tools. For example, Thomspon used the MindManager desktop client for Windows (s msft) to create the map about this post and shared it with me and Trewin via the Catalyst server. In turn, I was able to access and edit it from Catalyst entirely on the web, as was Trewin. As shown in the screenshot below, you can identify who created and edited any element of the map:

“The Catalyst Server is the glue that holds all of this together,” explained Thompson. “It manages the co-editing and makes it easy for people to work together without having to worry about checking out files and checking them back in. All edits are live.”
Prices for Catalyst start around $108 per user per year, and you can get a 30-day free trial.
Have you tried collaborative mapping ideas with your team? How is it working for you?