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Brainstorming Tools: A Comprehensive Overview of the Best Tools

Brainstorming is considered the mother of all creativity techniques. The aim is to unleash creativity in a group in order to put new ideas on paper. The basic idea of triggering a "storm of ideas" is not new. Everyone who starts brainstorming asks themselves the question at some point: What is the best way to get the many ideas down on paper? Free brainstorming tools such as Collaboard - the online whiteboard for teams that want to collaborate digitally in a modern way - act as helpful supports and pacemakers in the brainstorming process.


What are Brainstorming Tools?

Online brainstorming tools or apps such as Collaboard are used to record the ideas developed by the team and make them visually visible. This maintains an overview of all joint projects. It is then easier to plan the next steps. Thanks to your brainstorming tools, you have all the collected ideas in one place. Unlike in a verbal meeting, these are not lost but are available to all participants at all times in real time. Overall, free brainstorming tools are perfect for generating ideas quickly in various areas of life, such as at work or during training. They are particularly suitable when many different ideas are desired, and these are to be exchanged within a team.
 
Incidentally, there is a wide range of brainstorming tools available. For some creative minds, online mind maps are suitable for storing concepts and ideas. Others prefer to use lists or create a customer journey. You can find various templates for this at Collaboard. Here, you can create a customer journey, define target groups, or start a brainstorming session. There are many ways in which teams can work with brainstorming tools.

 

Brainstorming Tools and their Advantages and Disadvantages at a Glance

 

As you may already know, there are different methods of brainstorming. Some are more effective than others. A good brainstorming method is one that suits your team and is fun, structured, and accessible to everyone at all times. Traditional methods, such as sticking up pinboard cards or writing in notebooks, often lag behind modern brainstorming online tools. In a direct comparison, the advantages of the brainstorming tools available online outweigh the disadvantages:

  • Brainstorming tools impress with their ease of use. Depending on the tool, the application works directly online. You can start your team meetings from any device and easily participate on the go. This means that ideas are always accessible to the entire team in real time - an advantage that traditional brainstorming applications do not offer. In addition, Collaboard's online whiteboard is digitally accessible at any time, and the collected data can be stored in any cloud (or on-premises).

  • Brainstorming tools, which are suitable for school and work, organize your ideas clearly. For example, you can organize your ideas hierarchically or sort them according to individual elements such as symbols, images, or text. This allows you to create a helpful structure within your group work, according to which the generated ideas can be processed one after the other. No idea gets lost, and the entire team can contribute.

  • Conventional brainstorming methods usually require you to be present in person at school or in the office. Online brainstorming tools such as Collaboard make you flexible. As you can access them from anywhere and at any time, you can take your teamwork to a more effective level. 

  • Powerful brainstorming tools for school offer you a wide range of possibilities to realize your ideas visually. Are you a person who likes to draw and derive ideas from it? Or do you prefer to work with text or images? You have all these options with the Collaboard tool and its basic features. The basic functions include digital maps, drawing programs, and text formatting tools with different fonts and colors. You can then share your results with others in real time.

  • In brainstorming tools, you can post your ideas anonymously in some cases. This means that no one can see who came up with an idea. This approach is well suited to introverted members who might be less likely to get involved in regular on-site meetings.

  • Even proven brainstorming tools reach their limits when it comes to highly complex questions. If you are working on a complex question that is worth explaining, it is, therefore, better to switch to other applications.

  • One disadvantage of free brainstorming tools is their limited range of functions. The basic versions of the tools are usually restricted to a maximum of five users per project. If you and your team want to put an unlimited number of ideas on paper, a paid version is the right choice.

 

Tips for Using Brainstorming Tools


Have you found a good brainstorming tool and would like to get started right away? Good ideas don't automatically arise when many people are working on a project. Structured work with brainstorming tools channels creativity and produces useful results. And this is the best way to proceed:

Plan a Session

Plan your brainstorming session by taking care of the technology, the method, and all the necessary utensils. Agree on the date with the participants. They do not necessarily have to prepare the content. Sometimes brainstorming is more fruitful if the exact question is not yet known.

Determine Notetaker and Facilitator

Some participants like to write, others do not once they are in the "flow". Therefore, make sure you choose someone to take on the task of writing down the ideas. All other participants can focus entirely on brainstorming in the meantime. You also need a moderator to ensure that everything runs smoothly. They determine the framework conditions, address participants, and ask questions. Ideally, your team will appoint a person with strong soft skills as a moderator. The moderator should be motivated, empathetic, and a team player in order to manage the idea generation process well.  

Form Small Groups

Depending on which version of a brainstorming tool you use, a large number of people can work together in real time. Experience has shown that five to eight people are enough to get fresh ideas flowing. If there are more, it can become confusing. Ideally, the participants should come from different departments and have different areas of expertise.

Prioritize Quantity and Lateral Thinking

The primary goal of your sessions is to collect as many good or even outstanding ideas as possible. You should avoid unnecessary discussions or criticism so that you stay in the flow. Instead, try to think outside the box, for example, by taking up an idea and generating a new one from it.  Even ideas that seem unconventional or crazy at first glance can serve as inspiration.

Define the Method

If you are working with a brainstorming online tool such as Collaboard, you need to proceed methodically. Agree in advance on one or more methods to be used. For example, ABC brainstorming is popular, where an idea is collected for each letter. 
 
Do you have limited time for brainstorming? Then, the 6-3-5 method could prove useful. In this method, six participants each contribute three possible solutions within a five-minute period. This method allows for the collection of many ideas in a very short time.
 
Small teams working with brainstorming tools could use the so-called Disney method. This is based on a role play. There are four different roles in total: The Dreamer, the Doer, the Critic, and the Neutral. While the dreamer thinks freely and passionately creatively, the doer evaluates the idea according to its feasibility. They consider the associated costs and technical requirements. The critic then weighs up the idea, points out weaknesses, and plays out worst-case scenarios. The neutral role is intended to view the idea from an external perspective (e.g. customer, supplier).
 
Another useful method is brainwriting. Here you write down your ideas individually within a certain period of time. Once this period has expired, you evaluate the ideas together. Almost everyone is also familiar with the classic mind map. Here you write down the question in the middle and add your proposed solutions together.
 
If you want to approach brainstorming from a different angle try the reverse brainstorming method, also called "negative brainstorming". With this method, you focus on ideas, how to make things worse. 

Integrate Multimedia Content and Templates

To further develop ideas together, you should visualize them as well as possible. This facilitates the exchange and, depending on the individual learning types, creates vivid images in the mind. Various tools are available for this purpose. The Collaboard brainstorming tool, for example, offers a digital drawing workshop where you can work with a brush, pen, and pencil. Various shapes and inserted images also visualize your ideas. For even more multimedia, you can record videos during your session or upload finished videos. You can even embed the content of your favorite websites on your board using an embed code.

Set Priorities

Once the ideas have been collected, they need to be sorted and prioritized. It is best to agree on this in advance and define how many ideas will ultimately be selected. Then, it is a good idea to vote on the collected suggestions and evaluate them. Collaboard offers a corresponding function for evaluating maps, texts, images, videos, and documents.

Functions & Features of Good Brainstorming Tools

Good online brainstorming tools come with a range of useful functions and features. These brainstorming tools for teams facilitate joint collaborative work:

  • An online whiteboard area that is accessible to everyone, regardless of location, proves to be very useful. All classic functions such as sticky notes, digital drawing formats, and the like should be available on it.

  • One useful function is data import. Tools such as Collaboard allow you to easily integrate documents, images and videos onto your board.

  • You can use the facilitator functions to lead your workshop. You can use it to make digital collaboration even more efficient. During the session, the moderator can use other functions, such as a timer to limit the time or the presentation mode.

  • Voting is an indispensable part of every brainstorming session. Make use of the voting and rating function to obtain feedback from all participants. Other interactive functions, such as surveys or a quiz, should also be available.

  • Guest users can also be invited using a corresponding function without their own account. In the Collaboard tool, you can set whether they receive read or access rights.

  • Data protection is an aspect that should not be neglected. Good brainstorming tools protect the content from unauthorized access. Collaboard offers you a password function and the option to (temporarily) lock created projects. This means that they cannot be moved or edited by third parties.

  • A good brainstorming tool guarantees GDPR-compliant data storage. If you have high-security requirements in this regard, choose a tool with European servers. Collaboard offers such an online whiteboard with European hosting. All data is stored on Swiss servers. There is no tracking, which means that no information about your user behavior is transmitted.  

 

 

The 12 Most Popular Brainstorming Tools

The selection of available online brainstorming tools is now almost unmanageable. Nevertheless, some applications are particularly popular with users. Below are brief descriptions of the 12 most popular brainstorming tools.

Mindmaster

Mindmaster is a German mind mapping tool with a wide range of functions. With Mindmaster, you can create notes, manage to-dos or import files. You can also use ready-made templates and an app. The free basic version is limited to three mind maps.

Mind-Map-online

Mind-map-online contains only the bare essentials: a mind map with a few functions that can be shared via a link or exported in JPG/PDF format.

Freeplane

The open-source Java application Freeplane organizes, groups and classifies ideas in a mind map. Shapes and colors can be used for visual design, which can be protected with a password.

LucidChart

LucidChart specializes in diagrams. The tool creates self-designed diagrams and works with templates. Content can also be imported from external sources such as Jira or YouTube. It also maps advanced processes.

Collaboard

With Collaboard, you can implement numerous brainstorming methods. Team members and guests can develop ideas together in real-time, vote on them, and much more. Collaboard is a GDPR-compliant brainstorming tool available as a cloud solution and a self-hosted solution (on-premises and for the private cloud).

Google Docs

Brainwriting can be implemented with Google Docs. Several users can write down their ideas on the web-based software. Interactive elements such as tables or drawings can also be edited together as a team. 

Visual Thesaurus

Visual Thesaurus aims to promote associative thinking with the help of groupings. As the tool breaks down synonyms, it helps to develop concepts and find unknown words.

Bubbl.us

Bubble.us is a web-based application that generates bubble diagrams. With the basic version, teams can quickly create, share and download mind maps in real-time.

Popplet

Popplet is a simple tool for capturing ideas. It creates visual presentations based on mind maps and diagrams. Popplet also provides a mobile app.

Factro

The web-based Factro application creates to-do lists and tasks with priorities. You can also define time frames and assign responsibilities to put ideas into practice.

Microsoft OneNote

As a kind of "digital notebook", OneNote mainly creates texts. You can add tables and images to these. Unlike other tools, OneNote does not have a task function, so it is mainly used to collect ideas.

Miro

As an online whiteboard, Miro also offers large companies many templates for brainstorming. In addition to whiteboards, the application provides mind maps and flowcharts. It is possible to collaborate in real-time with a video function or asynchronously in a team.

Mural

Mural enables interactive workflows with a wide range of functions. The main features include visual elements such as sticky notes and workshop functions. Features have also been integrated to simplify reporting and analysis.


Conclusion: How to use Brainstorming Tools in your Daily Work

All in all, the right free brainstorming tool can make all the difference in the joint brainstorming process. With the right application, you can visualize your ideas quickly and easily and record them for further processing. Finally, make sure you find a tool that suits you and your team. It is best to get an overview of the respective range of functions, the visual appearance, and the price-performance ratio.

 

FAQ Brainstorming Tools:

What is brainstorming?

Brainstorming is a method of collecting ideas. All team members write down their thoughts individually or together. The aim is to find new innovative ideas in joint projects and then implement the results.

In which industries is brainstorming used?

The brainstorming technique is particularly popular in creative fields. It is, therefore, used in sectors such as marketing, product design, and event management.

What phases does brainstorming involve?

The idea generation process goes through different phases. First you collect the ideas, with the scribe recording everything. You then organize the ideas and evaluate them. At the end, the prioritized ideas are developed further.

What makes a good brainstorming tool?

A good brainstorming tool for free simplifies the planning process and at the same time promotes collaborative working. Applications that are available everywhere have a user-friendly interface and a wide range of functions are ideal. Good tools also make brainstorming easier with templates that can be called up quickly and available interfaces to other programs.

Can free brainstorming tools also be used for large groups?

Online brainstorming tools can also be used in larger groups. In practice, the best number of participants is between five and 15.

What are the best brainstorming tools for remote teams?

Remote brainstorming tools must ensure real-time transmission and have a whiteboard with versatile functions. Recommended free brainstorming tools such as Collaboard work remotely with just a few clicks and have an almost unlimited digital canvas for sketching ideas.

Is Collaboard a free brainstorming tool?

Collaboard is a free brainstorming tool that also offers a paid version with additional features. Up to five members can work on one project in the free version. A total of up to three projects are available simultaneously in the free version of the brainstorming tool.
 
 

 

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