Online Workshop Facilitation Tools for your 2023 Toolkit

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With so many great online workshop facilitation tools out there, it’s sometimes hard to know which one to choose. 

Comparing the features and prices of the various tools isn’t an apples-to-apples affair. Not only that, it’s likely you will need multiple tools depending on the audience and how you wish to engage with them.

So where do you start? 

Well, we’ve put together a list of different online workshop facilitation tools our team has used and popped them all in one convenient spot. Right here!

Online tools that build virtual spaces

Virtual space tools are a logical place to start when you’re exploring online workshop facilitation tools. They let you build a virtual room for your workshop. With these tools, you can create virtual events and conferences that recreate that sense of navigating a festival ground or moving from keynote speeches to breakout rooms. You might even create a virtual office where people can gather, work and have chance interactions.

Virtual spaces such as those below can help create a sense of wonder and excitement in participants, though they do often require more set-up and overhead than a simple virtual meeting.

Workshop facilitation tools

Once you have a virtual space defined, the next thing to consider for your online workshop is the collaboration tool you will use. 

Good collaboration tools do more than simply capture input. Good collaboration tools support the evolution of ideas. They facilitate informed, equitable decision making while ensuring all voices in the room are heard.  Importantly, good collaboration tools support positive user experiences for both facilitators and workshop participants. This means they are easy for everyone to use.

This type of online workshop facilitation tools can be applied to a huge range of event types. They can also be used for online, face-to-face and hybrid sessions.

Video conferencing tools

Video conferencing tools proved to be our go-to tool during the pandemic. Not only did they help us work from home, they helped us to connect socially. These tools have evolved dramatically over the past couple of years with more popular software including a wide variety of features and integrations. Users expect this type of workshop facilitation tool to include built-in features such as chat, screen sharing, and recording. 

These are a very cost effective way of engaging with people without the expense of travel. They have also shaped how we work.

Polling tools

These tools usually have members of the audience access their mobile devices to respond to different questions. Those questions can take the form of a poll, survey, quiz and similar short-form activity. The results are then shared by the facilitator with the group as a whole. 

Polling tools are also a good way of engaging large in-person groups, such as conference plenary sessions. They make it possible to quickly capture and share feedback without the awkwardness of singling out individuals to answer questions in front of everyone.

Online communication platforms

This category of online workshop facilitation tools offer another layer of engagement. They can be used during the workshop and continue to be used afterwards. These platforms are really helpful when groups are working asynchronously and collaboratively.

Online design tools

Design software can support online workshop facilitation in three key ways.

Firstly, the graphics made by online design tools enhance the workshop experience. They create visuals that are eye catching, engaging and fun. They can help create visuals that evoke feelings, set a mood and spark curiosity.

Secondly, when visual assets are being workshopped, online design software can save time and ensure everyone is on the same page. These tools streamline the creation process. They help reduce errors when making the designs with easy-to-use templates. They also support shared access so a group can have input into a process rather than limiting that input to a single individual.

Finally, online design tools can help engage visual learners. They can help a group ‘picture’ a process. They can map out steps or a design. They can support an asynchronous approach with people inputting feedback, comments and suggestions  into a design before a meeting.

Final tips for choosing online workshop facilitation tools

Choosing the right tool for the job really makes a big difference. 

The right tools for you will depend on your unique workshop requirements – 

  • Your workshop deliverables 
  • Your audience size
  • Your budget

With multiple features often included in a single tool it’s important to take the time to thoroughly explore what each offers. Book in a demonstration with the provider to tour you through the product. Sign up for free trials making sure you have the time to explore the tool (before the trial expires). 

Looking for for a tool to facilitate your next online workshop? Sign up now and give GroupMap a try (no credit card needed).

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Creating a Psychologically Safe Space for Better Collaboration

GroupMap - Creating a psychologically safe space for better collaboration.

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety is a term coined by Professor Amy C Edmondson of Harvard University. It describes a workplace environment free from interpersonal fear. It is an unspoken belief shared by the members of a group that theirs is a safe space in which they can take interpersonal risks.

As humans, we remain hard-wired with a fight or flight response. We assess every environment we encounter for risk. We pick up on even the smallest of cues, process them and decide if we’re in a safe place or we’re not. If we register we’re not safe, one of our two, pre-programmed reactions kick in. We find ourselves feeling we want to fight or flee.

We never stop assessing our environment. Even when we’re at work, we have our feelers out.

In a world of ergonomic furniture, fire drills and hand sanitizing stations, it’s easy to assume workplaces would be at the top of the safety list.  But our assessment goes beyond the physical. We gently register smiles, nods and responses. We pick up on eye rolls, sighs and silences. We tune into how our manager and colleagues interact. All to inform the level of risk we perceive to be aligned to our livelihood.

This process is because of our programming. It interprets ‘my job is safe’ as ‘I am safe’.  This is the feeling that’s at the core of psychological safety.

When you are working in a psychologically safe space, your feelers don’t register risk. This means your job receives your full focus. Not only that, the absence of fear means you experience a sense of confidence and trust. You feel you have permission to be both honest and candid. You sense that you can speak up and your voice is valued. This means you feel very comfortable sharing ideas, asking questions and offering comments. It is also a space in which you feel it’s ok to make mistakes.

What Isn’t Psychological Safety?

Edmondson makes it clear that psychological safety isn’t a workplace goal. Rather, it is a means of reaching a goal.

A psychologically safe space isn’t –

  • one that lacks conflict. In fact, conversations in safe spaces can be quite direct, and very candid.
  • one where there’s blind celebration of all ideas. Instead, ideas in safe spaces are still explored and assessed.
  • one that lacks errors or failure. It’s a space in which people feel safe to take risks and experiment with different solutions.

Most importantly, psychological safety isn’t an excuse to slack off or say whatever you like. There is still an expectation people will act appropriately within the workplace. They will be thoughtful and considerate. They will be productive and professional.

Why is Psychological Safety Important?

Author Anthony Hood gives two reasons why psychological safety is important –

  1. Without psychological safety, people are afraid to speak up. When people are afraid to speak up, bad things happen.
  2. A psychologically safe space supports the bottom line.

A lack of psychological safety means fear is present. Fear impacts thinking and decision making. With fear driving our behavior, self preservation is our priority. This means, in a fearful moment, we overlook the bigger picture to protect ourselves. As a result, bad things happen. Those bad things can include planes flying into mountains or patients receiving the wrong treatment.

Psychological safety also supports the bottom line. As work becomes more complex with less resources, team success requires team members to step up. In doing so they are taking an interpersonal risk. When they suggest a better way forward, it will need to be defended when scrutinized. They are presenting themselves as having expertise, possibly greater than that of their peers and manager. They are not ‘going with the flow’. They are ‘rocking the boat’ for the sake of the team delivering value.

High-performing teams typically feel safe enough to take risks. They also care enough to do so.   Edmonson’s work reflected this when she examined the relationship between two dimensions –  psychological safety, and motivation and accountability

GroupMap_Edmondson’s psychological safety and motivation and accountability

Four zones were identified –

  • Learning and high-performing zone.
    An environment of high psychological safety and high motivation is called the learning and high-performance zone. This is the ideal space for a workplace team. They are motivated to take risks and are therefore more likely to experience success.
  • Comfort zone.
    An environment of high psychological safety and low motivation is called the comfort zone. This could be an environment in which there is no fear, but also no sense of buy-in from the team.
  • Interpersonal anxiety zone.
    An environment of low psychological safety and high motivation is called the interpersonal anxiety zone. This is a space in which there is a great deal of fear and people are disempowered.
  • Apathy zone.
    An environment of low psychological safety and low motivation is called the apathy zone. It’s a space in which there’s low performance and very little else.

    The interpersonal anxiety zone should be of particular concern. This is the zone that can be very impactful on an individual’s mental health and therefore wellbeing.

How Does Psychological Safety Improve Collaboration?

Psychological safety improves collaboration in three important ways.

Firstly, psychological safety addresses groupthink. Groupthink is when our desire for cohesion influences group decision-making. We don’t want to appear different from the group, so we favor ideas that will help avoid conflict so consensus can be quickly reached. It occurs when we are feeling unsafe.

Secondly, it also addresses hesitancy. When we’re unsure we will hesitate before sharing suggestions and ideas. In that moment of hesitation we may self-edit or self-censor. When we find ourselves in a psychologically safe space we readily offer our ideas and feedback. This also means more ideas are shared.

Finally, psychological safety supports the evolution of ideas. Without the fear of things such as a judgment or adverse action we freely offer and embrace feedback. We are actively curious and open to possibilities. We will explore the potential of suggestions. This drives creativity and innovation.

In short, psychological safety supports collaboration because we’re not held back by fear. We’re not weighed down by excessive worries about others’ opinions regarding our actions. Our energy isn’t directed to thinking of ways to avoid the potential for embarrassment and other threats. Psychological safety gives us the freedom to engage, explore and create.

What Does a Psychologically Safe Meeting Space Look Like?

Meetings offer a window into the level of psychological safety of a team or group. If the group feels safe, the following four key signs will be observed.

  • Participation is high. When meeting attendees feel safe, they happily engage in the meeting. They will offer ideas and suggestions. They will be curious about the topics being discussed. They will ask questions to clarify and confirm their understanding.

  • Mistakes will be mentioned. When meeting attendees feel safe they will acknowledge and own their mistakes. Their errors will be used as a learning opportunity because psychologically safe spaces are the ones in which learning takes place.

  • Feedback is requested. When meeting attendees feel safe they will actively request and offer feedback. Feedback is seen as constructive. It is understood it is a reflection of the idea and not the person suggesting it.

  • There will be conflict. When meeting attendees feel safe they will disagree. It is understood that healthy dissent can stimulate neural pathways and spark creativity. Attendees will share their concerns regarding an idea. They will offer alternative ideas. They will explore the merits of all suggestions and reach a consensus.

How Do I Know if My Team Feels Safe?

The best way to find out if your team feels psychologically safe is to ask them. Of course, that’s easier said than done. This is because the way someone is asked about psychological safety can, in fact, affect that sense of safety.

For example, if a manager asks a team member if they feel safe, they are highly likely to say that they do. That’s not because they do really feel that way, but rather because they simply want to shut down a potentially uncomfortable conversation. Claiming they feel safe is the easiest way to do this.

Edmondson shaped seven key questions to help assess the level of psychological safety felt by a group. 

  1. If you make a mistake on your team, is it held against you?
  2. Are you able to bring up problems and tough issues?
  3. Do people on the team sometimes reject others for being different?
  4. Is it safe to take a risk?
  5. Is it difficult to ask other team members for help?
  6. Do people on the team deliberately act to undermine your efforts?
  7. Are your unique skills and talents valued and utilized?

The questions help to assess the level of group-based fear. The more fear that’s apparent, the less safe the group feels.

As with our earlier example, asking these questions directly to a group member will distort their response. The best way of capturing feedback to these questions is to allow people to respond anonymously. If time allows, it’s also valuable to allow for asynchronous responses. This means people don’t feel rushed or pressured in any way.

As time passes and team members come and go, it’s important to revisit these questions. The shared experience of existing team members can be daunting for new people. Not only that, what makes people feel safe will change over time.

What Can I Do to Build a Psychologically Safe Space?

GroupMap - How psychological safety supports collaboration2

While it’s everyone’s responsibility to foster an environment of psychological safety, it is tethered to the top of an organization. Leaders and managers need to model behavior that others will follow.

  • Acknowledge mistakes. Keep the saying “to err is human” front of mind. Show that everyone makes mistakes and that the important thing is to learn from them and grow. It’s also valuable to acknowledge those that helped to identify and fix the error. This reinforces the importance of the team.
  • Be available to the team. Listen to their feedback, concerns, and questions. Listen to their suggestions. Be curious and ask questions that give your team a platform to speak.

  • Respond mindfully. Owning up to mistakes isn’t easy and it should be supported rather than punished. Responding with annoyance, anger or frustration will only diminish psychological safety. It may even teach people to hide their mistakes or blame others.

  • Ask for help and offer it. It’s important that asking for help isn’t seen as a sign of incompetence. Instead, it’s an indication of being self-aware. If someone has a particular experience, make the most of them by asking them to assist. If an important deadline is looming, ask others to contribute to lower stress levels. If someone is struggling, offer to help out. Help is a symptom of good teamwork and collaboration.

  • Facilitate guidelines. They could range from meeting ground rules to a team agreement. Allow the people working together with the opportunity to set the parameters in which they will operate. This will give people the chance to define the behavior that helps them feel safe.

  • Nominate a devil’s advocate. Appoint someone to be critical of ideas rather than supportive. This distances an individual from any criticism they may issue as well as helps to ensure all ideas have rigor.

Everyone can contribute to psychological safety by  –

  • Saying what you would want to hear in the workplace. If you were new, had made a mistake or done a great job, what would you want to hear from your colleagues? Well, say it. Connecting with empathy and demonstrations of support will foster a sense of trust and safety.

  • Keeping things in context. You could be a part of a project group, a workplace team, or a committee member. You are a member of a group that has a purpose so don’t make it personal.

  • Expressing gratitude. The positive effects of gratitude range from better sleep to an increase in life satisfaction. Expressing gratitude is a way of acknowledging the help that was received. As we’ve said before, help is a sign of collaboration and good teamwork.

Make your Meetings Safer with GroupMap

Supporting psychological safety does take some effort but it’s well worth the effort – and GroupMap can make it easy.

Groupmap supports the effective delivery of workshops, meetings, teaching, and training. It boasts features specifically designed to overcome barriers to collaboration, foster a safe environment and increase meeting participation.

You can start straight away with any one of the 80+ templates.

Use GroupMap to run your next online session today.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Human Centred Stakeholder Workshops Excel Online with The Right Collaboration Tool

Derby Silk Mill is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first modern factory.

Hannah Fox is the Director of Projects and Programmes for Derby Museums, an organization that manages 3 public museums of art, history and natural history located in Derby, United Kingdom: The Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Pickford’s House, and their latest project, the Museum of Making located at Derby Silk Mill, an £18 Million development due to open in Spring 2021!

As an organization, Derby Museums uses human-centred design (design thinking) and co-production approaches to develop their projects, programmes and activities with their communities.

To learn more about this approach you can read DERBY MUSEUMS Human-Centred Design Handbook.

They also deliver online training for other cultural organizations that are interested in using human centred design and co-production approaches.

Facilitating Collaboration Online

Collaboration is at the heart of Derby Museums’ projects. They work together internally as well as with external parties and use design-thinking tools to capture and prioritise the desires and needs of their communities and stakeholders.

Before the pandemic, most of Derby Museums’ development sessions and workshops took place face to face and were facilitated through flip charts and post-it-notes… lots of post-it-notes!

As many companies have in recent times, Hannah needed to take Derby Museums’ activities into the digital space and required a platform where they could facilitate their sessions online. The need to transition to a new modality for what had been outcomes driven by human contact meant that processes had to be re-engineered and meeting tools used to ensure that the values, outcomes and methodologies of Derby could be maintained, if not enhanced.

Finding the Right Collaboration Tool for Remote Teams

It was important for Hannah to find a platform that could offer a choice of tools for collaborative human-centred design brainstorming and thinking. She also needed the collaboration tool to be intuitive, flexible and able to provide a great experience for both the facilitator and participants, with the massive price tags and steep learning curve.

Before finding GroupMap she had tried other collaboration tools, but found they were either too restrictive, with limited ways to engage, or too open, which led to participants interrupting each other’s contributions and as a result the experience became messy and the session less effective.

I’ve been looking for a great digital platform that allows us to do similar things online as we do in person – brainstorming, empathy mapping, journey mapping etc. and have tried several – Miro, Mural, Google Jamboard etc. and I think GroupMap is by far the best user experience‘. – Hannah Fox

Workshop Facilitation Tools and Techniques

Derby Museums have been using GroupMap to support them in their Museum of Making project. 

They have conducted a wide range of collaborative development sessions with staff, volunteers, and stakeholders in groups of between 10 to 50 people. These sessions were conducted through a range of virtual meetings and workshops and a range of activities and techniques were supported.

These included:

  • General Brainstorming
  • Empathy Mapping
  • Value Proposition
  • Stakeholder Mapping
  • Programme Design
  • Project Development
  • Teaching
Empathy Map with GroupMap

Hannah's GroupMap Experience

GroupMap provided an invaluable collaborative tool that allowed facilitators to plan and deliver sessions effectively, enabling the journey mapping of sessions ahead of time and creating ways to run a workshop and gather insights that seamlessly enabled collaborative thinking. The participant experience was enjoyable, interesting and fun!‘ – Hannah Fox

Hannah was impressed by the abundance of templates GroupMap provides to help get you started, noting that they were very relevant and hugely useful. 

Hannah also reflected that the ability for the group to brainstorm and generate lots of ideas quickly in GroupMap had been particularly useful. 

As a facilitator, being able to see who is contributing enabled her to offer prompts to support the quieter contributors to increase overall engagement and participation.

She received great feedback from the participants of her development sessions with the most common compliments being how intuitive and easy it was to use the platform.

Really enjoyed the session you ran using GroupMap – it was a fantastic way to collaborate!’ – Meeting participant

Value Proposition with GroupMap

GroupMap: Supporting Organizational Outcomes

For Derby Museums, GroupMap has been a huge success, helping them achieve their organizational outcomes of:

  • Collaborative planning
  • Human-centred design and co-production activities
  • Sector teaching opportunities

At last, a platform that supports the way we think and gives us a fantastic digital space to develop ideas and collaborate with others! It helped us take our normal project planning and in person activities online during the pandemic, but will continue to be a hugely useful addition to our resources once a little bit of normality returns.’- Hannah Fox

Derby Museums will be continuing to use GroupMap for planning and developing their internal projects, as well as externally to engage with partners and communities in developing ideas, gathering data and for delivering workshops and activities. These partners include corporations like Rolls-Royce, as well as museum organisations internationally.

Want to try GroupMap as an online brainstorm tool? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online brainstorm tool for FREE for 14 days today. 

Case study – Teaching and Learning Forum – Examples of GroupMap in the Classroom #Edtech

How GroupMap is being used in Classrooms to facilitate student learning.

The following are examples of how educators are effectively engaging their students in group discussion, collaborative learning, and speeding up the feedback process for their students. These ideas were presented at the WAND teaching and learning conference held at Curtin University and offer some wonderful examples of how teachers can employ innovative practices in delivering their curriculum.

Facilitating online discussions with pre-service teachers

Paul from the School of Education presented on how he used Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” format to brainstorm inclusive practices for students. The learning outcome was for students to explore the idea of having a student from a different country joining a classroom. Rather than one specific country, however, he asked participants to imagine that in the future, Aliens had been discovered from Mars and that a Martian was joining the classroom. Using the different perspectives of Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats”, pre-service teachers could then explore and list a wide range of issues that needed to be considered within the school environment.   Given that this was also an online class, it meant that everyone had the opportunity to participate in the process and perspectives from a wide range of participants could be inputted. Based on the outputs it looks like they had a great session, generating ideas and solutions to cross-cultural bridges. It’s no wonder that Paul received positive feedback from students like “This is the first time in my online course that I actually feel like a student that could contribute. All my courses should be like this.”

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What could you try?

  • Using the 6 thinking hats approach so that people are encouraged to think differently about the same situation.
  • Integrating GroupMap into your own LMS (Blackboard was used in this case) to make the experience more seamless.
  • Augmenting your online course with a collaborative online brainstorming tool,

Smarter Team Planning

Bhadra, (Manager-Curtin Library Learning Services) went through the way she and her team had used GroupMap for unit planning. Instead of gathering up all the sticky notes or madly writing down notes during meetings, each person added their ideas and comments to a GroupMap over the course of a month. Many hands make light work, and by the end of the process, the team had plenty of useful information in one, easily accessible place. The best thing about it? Everyone was able to have their say and see what others were talking about (without the hassle of scheduling around a dozen people’s busy lives). Less early morning meetings equal more sleep for everyone.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”17192″ img_size=”800×400″ alignment=”center”][mk_image src=”” image_width=”500″ align=”center” crop=”false”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557987664659{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

What could you try?

  • Running your online brainstorming sessions prior to your meeting to allow people more think time.
  • Speeding up your meetings by having people add their thoughts to a key topic beforehand.
  • Capturing thinking as you plan so you have a written record and evidence of the planning process.

Deeper Discussion through a compare and contrast exercise

Naggamal, a Clinical and Professional fellow, entertained us with her use of GroupMap in the more traditional classroom environment. Naggamal used GroupMap to look at the pros and cons of different medical radiation equipment with her students. Students were asked to expand their thinking by branching out from a given set of medical radiation tools. By comparing and contrasting, students can better consolidate their understanding whilst applying critical thinking to the diagnostic methods. With something as technical as this, she said it was great to see students able to explore topics with no one fixed answer. She also has the ability to comment and give feedback to the conversation as it developed.[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”31″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”500″ align=”center” crop=”false”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row padding=”0″][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1557988471458{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]What can you try?
  • Provide feedback in real-time to groups as they present ideas.
  • Use GroupMap as a formative assessment tool to evaluate student understanding of key topics.
  • Facilitate a class discussion based on the overall output by the students.

Can we help?

Want some ideas specific to your classroom? We’d love to help. Just drop us an email with what you have in mind and we will be more than happy to help create a wonderful teaching and a learning experience[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Basics of Mind Mapping – What You Need to Know When Brainstorming Online.


What is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a diagrammatic representation of ideas that radiate from a central concept, thought, theme or question. Ideas that branch out from the central node become more detailed and build on the previous idea.

Mind maps are incredibly flexible, and can be used in a multiplicity of ways. They could, for example help you capture –

  • the outline of a plan of action
  • the different perspectives of a particular issue
  • the framework of an essay
  • the scope of a project
  • the elements a programme

Compiled individually or in groups, mind maps can vary significantly from one to another. They can be constructed using a range of media from pen and paper, through to online collaborative brainstorming templates.

Fundamental to a mind map is its simplicity. Their purpose is to capture a summary rather than detail, and therefore it should be possible to construct one in a single, reasonably short session.

This article will go through the fundamentals of mind mapping. Read on below to learn more.

The Benefits of Using Mind Maps

Using a mind map yields a number of benefits including the following :

1 – Enhanced Learning and Information Retention

Mind maps mimic the way our brains work.

By surfacing the connections between ideas, students can form connections between what they know and the new information they are exploring.

Additionally, human beings are more likely to remember a narrative brought about by connections rather than disparate facts.

Mind maps can therefore be a valuable teaching and learning tool.

2 – Complex Issues are Easier to Understand

Mind maps have an inherent clarity.

The process of constructing a mind map sees people distill information. As such, they strip away superfluous detail while visually representing how key ideas are connected.

When shared, only the important details are conveyed therefore increasing the likelihood that they are understood.

3 – Better Information Structuring

Mind maps capture information in a logical structure.

The way in which they record ideas and the relationships between them, means they are able to convey the “big picture” simply and quickly, while reflecting the points that support that “big picture”.

This makes mind maps an ideal planning tool for things such as essays and reports, and scopes of work.

4 – Enhanced Productivity

Not only is mind mapping an efficient way of capturing information, it can organize that information with goals and associated tasks in clear view.

Mind maps can help a manager identify then delegate tasks or concepts that are aligned; they can also convey how those delegated tasks are linked, and necessary for the success of a project.

Mind maps can be used to break down your complex aspects of a project into smaller steps, which significantly reduces the amount of work done.

5 – Sparks Creativity

Mind mapping allows us to capture the first thoughts that spring to mind and anything and everything we can think of that is connected. This can foster all manner of creativity.

What Makes Up a Mind Map?

A mind map generally includes a combination of the following :

1 – A Central Idea, Theme or Concept

The central idea is usually called the core, and is the heart of the mind map. The core can be thought of as the firework that’s being launched into the air from which all other ideas will explode.

As the name suggests, the central theme is placed at the centre of the page or screen. It can either be a subject or topic, a problem or question, or even a concept or thought that is to be explored.

2 – Associations

Associations branch out from the central theme; those that radiate from the centre are known as first-level associations.

From there, second-level associations are made, then third-level associations and so on.

With the need for simplicity in mind, it’s generally understood that there should be no more than 6 or 7 association levels, thereby avoiding unnecessary and potentially confusing detail.

When associations are created, and connections between ideas are captured, they tend to be more easily remembered. It’s generally believed that showing those associations as curved rather than straight lines further increases the likelihood of recalling the ideas they connect.

The way in which the associations are represented on the page or screen can add further meaning to a mind map without cluttering it with detail.  For example, bold or coloured lines could draw attention to small but critical ideas. Additionally, the proximity of the ideas to the central theme can be used to reflect their importance.

3 – Keywords

Given a good mind map is simple, the use of keywords are more effective in delivering this simplicity than detailed phrases or sentences.

As a rule, a single word for each association works best, with the associations themselves helping to keep detail to a minimum. For example, “Venue” was used in the mind map pictured rather than “Conference Venue”.

Sticking to keywords also saves time. It allows you to quickly capture the main points needed to support your central theme and avoid getting bogged down in detail. 

In Summary

Mind maps are valuable as –

  • they can be applied to any field
  • there are no right or wrong ways to use them
  • they can explore whatever you wish to deliver the desired outcomes

Templates can supercharge your mind mapping, and GroupMap provides many brainstorming templates that allows you to brainstorm individually or as a team, anonymously and with the ability to ad images, links, colours and files.

Have more questions or would like a demo?
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Keeping Groupthink Out and Teamwork In


Believe it or not, it’s possible for signs of harmony to point to issues within a group. As strange as it may seem, groups that arrive at swift consensus, appear immune to conflict, and can easily navigate ethical conundrums may have a problem.

That problem is groupthink, and it’s collaboration’s kryptonite.

To counteract this, it’s important for facilitators to be –

  • conscious of the potential of groupthink when curating a collaborative environment
  • aware of any symptoms that may appear during the collaborative process so that they may be swiftly addressed

As passionate fans of collaboration, we are keen to help you keep groupthink out of your sessions to make more space for teamwork and the positive outcomes that comes with it.

What is Groupthink, and What’s so Bad About It?

First referenced in 1971 by psychologist Irving Janis, groupthink sees our very human desire for cohesion influencing group decision making. It is the tendency for group members to override their own critical evaluation of an idea or situation, in order to minimise conflict and reach group consensus.

It’s something we all do from time to time. If ever you have agreed to meet up with a group of friends at a cafe you don’t like, or you find yourself at a quiz night when you were really hoping to head to an escape room, it’s likely you’ve agreed to be there because of groupthink.

Although groupthink is unintentional its consequences can be significant. While agreeing to attend a quiz night is fairly benign, in extreme cases, groupthink can be so impactful that the outputs of the group are irrational or dysfunctional.

Groupthink can actually counteract the benefits of having a group involved in the decision making process; the desire for harmony acting almost as a repellent against diverse opinions, ideas and solutions, and devaluing differing expertise and varied experience.

What Causes Groupthink?

Groupthink occurs when we are feeling unsafe; the less safe we feel, the more likely groupthink is to influence us.

This is because groupthink is a byproduct of our underlying wish to fit in, to be liked, and to exist harmoniously with others; it is the result of our unconscious pursuit of ‘safety in numbers’.

Groupthink can be a response to –

  • a high-stress situation
  • an environment of uncertainty
  • recent failure or criticism
  • time pressure
  • a lack of impartial leadership

What are the Symptoms of Groupthink?

A facilitator can ‘test’ for groupthink by looking out for the following –

  • new ideas and perspectives are met with silence
  • group members self-censor or offer the opinions of ‘anonymous others’ rather than their own
  • dissenters are quickly pressured to change their view
  • opposing viewpoints are labeled ‘stupid’, ‘weak’ or ‘wrong’
  • the problem is only seen from one perspective

The great thing is, by appropriately calling out these symptoms, a facilitator can negate them.

How to Avoid Groupthink so Better Decisions are Made

The more supported and safe participants feel in the group environment, the less likely groupthink is to occur.

Here are three simple steps you can follow to help deter groupthink and deliver better decisions.

1. Build a Transparent Process that Fosters Divergence

A process that side steps groupthink to capture all ideas amongst its initial steps is a great way of encouraging divergent thinking. This can be achieved in a couple of simple ways –

  • asynchronous input
  • anonymous input
  • divergent and convergent thinking cycles

Asynchronous input allows members of the group to submit their ideas individually at a time that suits them. It means participants can give themselves as much thinking time as they need to respond, without the influence of the group. Asynchronous input comes with the added bonus of helping to overcome recency bias.

Allowing participants to submit their input anonymously can be used synchronously or asynchronously. Anonymous input allows participants to be completely honest with their feedback, safe in the knowledge that their ideas will not trigger direct adverse action.

Stepping participants through divergent and convergent thinking expands their context.

  • Divergent thinking requires each participant in the group to only focus on new, innovative, and wild ideas. The process is additive, so participants can build upon these new ideas. The goal is to think laterally (beyond the obvious). Conversations are driven by vision, ideals, wish lists and creativity. 
  • Convergent thinking is the opposite. Limitations and constraints are put in place to encourage consensus building to see what is plausible and realistic. 

Moving participants in and out of this cycle as part of your process encourages both forms of thinking which help to foster divergence.

Online collaborative tools are ideally placed to support this. The more effective tools include features that allow for anonymity or the use of an alias, and remove the possibility of personalities being identified through handwriting. It’s possible to set the tool so that members of the group can’t see each other’s responses until the facilitator allows, so participants won’t be swayed by the thoughts of others.

Ensuring the process is transparent can help remove another layer of uncertainty; knowing how information will be used or shared means participants won’t jump to a wrong conclusion or possibly become defensive during the collaborative process.

2. Encourage Healthy Dissent

According to the Harvard Business Review, healthy dissent can stimulate neural pathways and spark greater creativity.

Try – 

  • appointing a member of the group as devil’s advocate to give them permission to spark conversations that trigger opposing views
  • having groups track the ideas they wish to dismiss, then ask them to defend those ideas 
  • allocate participants a different character through whose lens they are to consider an idea

Being able to consider all aspects of an idea is to be encouraged as it will help unearth all manner of creative solutions.

One approach to encourage healthy dissent is to argue like you are right, then listen like you are wrong. This form of active listening gives everyone a chance to put their point across and to feel supported when they speak.

It can be challenging managing conversations that matter to people. They will speak with passion and conviction and it may at times feel like tensions are high. Healthy dissent is about managing and respecting the process and the debate.

3. Give the Leader the Day Off

If the group is a team, having the team leader or manager absent themselves from the group decision process can be beneficial for everyone. 

When the leader remains in the room, ego, authority, and fear are likely to have an impact. It might not be obvious with a highly collaborative team, but undertones of these will still exist.

The absence of the boss or manager on the other hand side-steps this influence. In self-organised teams, each person has the chance to put themselves first, and address the problem in a way that best works for them.

It allows group members to interact with their peers without – 

  • the influence of a hierarchy
  • fear of reprisal
  • any concerns around the lack of impartial leadership 

It is a way for a leader to – 

  • show trust
  • gain greater insight into their team
  • empower teams to take action on their own.

This is a powerful way of procuring a very honest response from a group, particularly if the group decision omits references to individuals.

Putting it Into Practice

GroupMap is an online collaboration tool that offers all manner of templates to help guide group discussion and decision making; it also offers the flexibility for you to build your own!

GroupMap lets people brainstorm asynchronously, anonymously, change the role of facilitators, and allows individual brainstorming and equal participation to ensure that the voice of the individual, as well as the collective, is heard.

GroupMap lets you capture the three most important views in the brainstorming session: your’s, mine, and ours.

Have more questions or would like a demo?

Lucid Meetings uses GroupMap to deliver best online collaboration

Lucid meetings online meetings

Successful meetings everyday!

Lucid Meetings

Lucid Meetings is an innovation meeting company, focussed on helping teams run successful meetings everyday. 

The Lucid Meetings team focuses on the underlying systems that make successful meetings a regular part of your organization’s culture – being agenda management reliable records. 

The organization’s educational programs also helps teams design and lead successful everyday business meetings. 

Elise Keith is the founder and CEO of Lucid Meetings and has been using GroupMap to enhance collaboration in public educational events and private training programs. 

“Lucid Meetings helps thousands of teams worldwide run successful meetings every day,” explained Elise.

“In 2020, Lucid Meetings was recognized as one of the top-10 global influencer brands on the topic of remote work and virtual meetings.” 

The search for an online collaboration tool

Elise had wanted to find an online collaboration tool to support brainstorming, sensemaking, and decision making activities for large groups. 

“The free tools I’ve used–like Google Slides or Jamboard-lack the features and power needed to make it easy for large groups to get right to work, through no fault in design because that’s not what they were built for,” commented Elise. 

“Many other visual collaboration and decision support tools require lots of setup, time during the workshop for training participants, or they don’t produce usable results you can work with later.” 

Hitting the sweet spot with a group collaboration tool 

GroupMap online collaboration tool

Elise found GroupMap when first researching online brainstorming and decision support software to integrate with Lucid Meetings platform in 2015. 

Her thorough research is well documented and initially looked at 25 tools for online brainstorming and decision making and has now been updated to 35 tools. 

“Five years later and after comparison to many, many others, GroupMap remains my favorite for most educational workshops,” said Elise. 

“In my opinion, GroupMap hits the sweet spot. Participants find it easy to use with minimal instructions, it supports the multi-step processes I need to run, and it gives me useful data afterward.” 

Using GroupMap for collaborative brainstorming courses 

Elise and the team at Lucid Meetings recently conducted a public, online event, exploring “Meeting Technology.” The event included a deep dive with Scott Wharton, the VP and General Manager of Logitech Video Collaboration. 

In this event, participants used the brainstorming functionality of GroupMap, a variation on polarities and a variation on nine windows. 

Online collaboration occurred in a GroupMap workspace that Elise had set up (see below) with three brainstorming sessions. 

Lucid Meetings GroupMap

A customisable template was used to create the three brainstorming sessions for this Lucid Meetings event – starting with a polarities exercise below. 

GroupMap online Collaboration Tool at play

This was then followed by a four and nine windows template where participants can type in their ideas, comment on others’ thoughts and also vote using the thumbs up functionality. 

Online collaboration tool with GroupMapGroupMap with Lucid Meetings

A solution for meeting facilitators 

Elise noted that the recent online event on “Meeting Technology” using GroupMap as an online tool brainstorming was well received. 

“After the event, several facilitators said they’d check it out, because it was slick.”

Elise also commented that GroupMap supported the focus on Lucid Meetings events, which are on the ideas and content, not the technology itself, 

“Most of my participants didn’t say anything about GroupMap at the event, which is actually perfect. When we use other tools, we often get many comments about either challenges they’re having, or remarks about how much work it looks like we did to set it all up.” 

“For public events, I don’t want my participants thinking and commenting about all the prep work I did, so I’m really grateful when the tech can disappear so they can do the work. I feel GroupMap achieves that.”

“In my private programs, we run a series of mini-workshops over the course of several months. GroupMap makes it easy for me to take content from an earlier session and build on it later. Brainstorms from one session turn into the content we sort and analyze in later sessions.”

“This makes it easy for everyone to see both how their ideas are evolving, but also to pick right back up from where we left off.”

As a meeting facilitator herself, Elise indicated that using GroupMap gives her access to easily harvestable and analyzable data. 

“I can also publish pretty maps, which enhance the post-event value.” 

Reporting with GroupMap

Want to try GroupMap as an online collaboration tool? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today. 

GroupMap Helps ISACA – A Global IT Summit – Turn Virtual

ISACA Virtual Event

Introducing ISACA

ISACA (pronounced “eye-SOCK-uh”) is a global, professional organization for IT audit, security, governance, risk, and privacy professionals. For more than 50 years, ISACA has equipped individuals with knowledge, credentials, education, and community to help progress their careers and transform their organizations. 

The organization has more than 145,000 members worldwide, most of whom are affiliated with a local chapter. These 220 “little versions” of ISACA are located in more than 90 countries and are run entirely by volunteers who are elected by the members of their respective chapter. 

Megan Moritz is the Director of Global Volunteer Engagement at ISACA Global, headquartered in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, USA, and oversees the teams that interact and work with all ISACA volunteers, at the chapter and global levels. 

“The chapter relations team ensures the highest level of support is provided to these individuals, equipping them with the tools and resources they need to run their respective ISACA chapter.”

The need to move to a virtual event

ISACA Global Summit A Virtual Event

Every other year, ISACA invites more than 450 chapter leaders to attend its Global Leadership Summit (GLS) to help define the strategic vision for the organization. In 2020, due to the global pandemic, the event was held virtually. 

Despite going online, ISACA’s goals for GLS remained the same:

  • make the event as interactive and as much like an in-person event as possible; 
  • obtain input from attendees;
  • ensure the most impactful ideas rose to the top; and
  • share output with ISACA’s senior leadership team and Board of Directors.

To deliver the above goals, the facilitators of the event needed a tool that would assist with the facilitation process. 

“We were looking for something that would automate a lotif not allof the processes and were also brainstorming different methods/matrices we thought would work for this particular event.”

“We wanted the tool to be highly intuitive/easy to use, secure, and web-based, so people did not need to install anything on their computer.” 

GroupMap to support ISACA’s Virtual Event

Prior to making the decision to hold GLS virtually, ISACA had already planned to use GroupMap as an effective means of capturing data and quickly collating or elevating the information as they walked tables through a facilitated process. 

The team wanted to find an effective way to collect information that was easier and faster than what had been accomplished in the past via use of flip charts, Post-It notes, scrap paper, and emails. 

“Once we knew we the event was going to take place virtually, GroupMap still made perfect sense. We know it is not limited to a virtual setting, and we are excited to use it again at a future, in-person event.”

The ISACA team requested a demo with GroupMap to explore how it could be used for digital facilitation during GLS and were immediately impressed with the functionality and flexibility of the platform. 

Successful and Engaging Virtual Global Summit 

The ISACA team attributed GroupMap’s intuitive platformfeatures that promote efficiency and accuracy, along with the organization’s personalised serviceas winning elements to support ISACA’s first-ever virtual Global Leadership Summit (that was held in August 2020). 

Over 80 easy to use and customizable templates

“From the beginning, we knew we wanted to use the SOAR matrix, but after Jeremy [from GroupMap] shared all the other options, we started to think about how we could use two different matrices to achieve an even more impressive end result.” 

“We also thought, after three days of being in the SOAR matrix, people would be ready to move onto something different.”

The team used the How/Now/Wow matrix for the last two days of the virtual event, and found it to be just as user-friendly and intuitive as the SOAR matrix. 


Download report in one click 

“The most impressive part of GroupMap came with all the report functionality. We were able to generate what we needed so quickly and efficiently, it was mind-boggling.”

Their team indicated that, from a feature perspective, GroupMap’s reporting capability was their favourite. 

Share Results GroupMap Virtual Event

Personalized and helpful service 

“The willingness of the GroupMap team to guide us through things, answer questionssometimes repeatedlyand take calls at odd hours, given that one facilitator was in Chicago and the other in Hawaii, was extraordinary.”

“But the most exceptional aspect of the experience was how the GroupMap team truly wanted to understand the entire process. They wanted to make sure GroupMap was not just a tool we used, but an experience people would remember. It was awesome!”


Strategic Results for ISACA

ISACA Global Summit

The team commented that having GroupMap as a digital facilitation tool meant the meeting facilitators could focus on preparing and running the virtual event. In addition, attendees knew the data they entered was going to be immediately visible. This saved everyone involved an immense amount of time and work after the event concluded. 

“Instead of requesting information via email, pestering people with reminders, and worrying about people forgetting to do things, we had all the data we needed as soon as the event concluded. The participants could see and feel that, as well, which made for a very powerful conclusion.”

GroupMap’s easily downloadable report feature meant that the 475 attendees of the virtual summit were able to develop and provide the senior leadership team and Board of Directors with detailed action plans for nine key initiatives.

“These important plans will be crucial information used by the ISACA Board of Directors during their strategic planning session on 21-22 September 2020.”

“Details of which action plans/strategic items were included in both the short- and longer-term planning will be shared during a GLS follow-up session in Q4 2020, to which all GLS participants will be invited.”

Want to try GroupMap as your virtual event solution? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online collaboration tool for FREE for 14 days today.