The key to brainstorming isn't just getting as many people as possible in a room so they can collaborate on the greatest ideas ever. It requires a bit more work to get the most out of your brainstorming session.
Sometimes, the best brainstorming sessions are accompanied by a simple tool that allows you to record and visualize the progress of ideas. This allows your team to see the flow of ideas and gives more context around next steps.
For Collaborative Brainstorming
This web-based mind mapping app allows you to build, save, and share up to three mind maps on the free plan. This straight-forward tool makes it easy to start brainstorming from almost any device (since there's no need to download anything), and turn those ideas into useful presentations. You can try out their paid plans by starting a 30-day free trial.
This tool lets you create and share intricate mind maps. From complex brainstorming to simple ideation, Coggle provides a space where you can build and download diagrams so your ideas will always be accessible and actionable.
Built in Java, Freeplane is an open source application that can freely position, order, classify, group, or connect any node. Style the map using shapes, colors, and edge type.
You can structure nodes in terms of content, such as text, formula, icon, image, hyperlink, or even at a hierarchical level. Protect your mind maps by adding a password, or share and collaborate on them using the drag and drop, search, and publishing features.
LucidChart provides a powerful and easy-to-use flow chart maker that helps create professional diagrams for visual collaboration. You can start from scratch, or pick from their variety of templates. Integrations include G Suite, Confluence, and JIRA, and you can pull content from sources like YouTube, Dropbox, and Facebook as well.
This tool may not be the most visually appealing, but it gets the job done. Mind42 allows you to build simple diagrams in your web browser and share with others. Very basic functionality—good for high-level brainstorming.
MindMap is a Google Chrome extension that has Cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box support all built in. Save your work to local storage, in the cloud, or print and export finished mind maps as an image. You can even attach URLs or hand-drawn images to the individual nodes.
Popplet is the simplest tool to capture your thoughts and ideas. Because it's useful in both offices and classrooms, it's extremely visual and utilizes images and diagrams to build projects. Multiple people can access the same project within Popplet, where they can build presentations, include tags, and categorize projects all within the tool. A mobile app is also available for iOS users.
Another web-based, collaborative tool, Wisemapping offers a free mind mapping tool for teams and individuals. If there's a feature you'd like to add to make the solution better, they offer a sponsorship program where you can fund or raise money to build the new feature.
For Solo Brainstorming
Eyewire Creativity Cards
Neither an app or a tool, this website simply provides simple suggestions and exercises to help enhance creativity. Simply refresh the page to see a new exercise.
Here's one example:
This open source mind mapping tool was built in Java, and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Features include one-click navigation, easy drag-and-drop, uploading images, and exporting mind maps. Don't let the outdated interface fool you; this tool is easy-to-use in every sense of the word, and extremely functional.
Super basic and to-the-point, MindApp lets you dive right into the free tool without downloading, installing, or even leaving their homepage. Save your mind maps in the tool directly, Google Drive, or Dropbox. This tool comes with a pre-built mind map diagram, which you can play with and customize as you wish.
Augment your brainstorming environment and mood with soundscapes and visualizations. This tool allows you to add background images and set the tone to enhance individual creativity and improve overall mood.
This neat online search engine allows you to enhance your associative thinking. Once you search a term, the tool spews out a word map with words associated with the search term. The map groups words that are similar, so you can easily see how words relate to each other.
Now that you've selected your brainstorming app, it's time to learn some techniques! Check out these 7 Techniques for More Effective Brainstorming.