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Which Brainstorming Apps?

by Tom O'Connor on December 5th, 2011
Michael Caine brainstorms in The Italian Job - for one one final great idea

Michael Caine brainstorms in The Italian Job - for one final great idea

Michael Caine, in the original version of The Italian Job,  gives us one of the great movie endings of all time.

As the curtain comes down on his attempts to salvage a bus-load of gold bullion, precariously perched atop an alpine cliff,  he turns to the audience with the tantalising words:

 Hang on a minute, lads, I’ve got a great idea! 

Great ideas don’t come as readily to most of us, however.

Alex Osborn spotted this in the 1940’s, when he invented ‘brainstorming’, which he described as:

 “a conference technique by which a group attempts to find
a solution for a specific problem by amassing all the ideas
spontaneously by its members”.

Osborn was a New York advertising executive, who gave the ‘O’ initial  to the well-known BBDO agency.

Though still largely regarded as a group activity, brainstorming can also be used by  individuals in solitary mode – when called on to creatively solve problems on their own.

Hence, the popularity of individual idea generation techniques – free-writing, word association, mind-mapping, etc.

And now, with the arrival of the smartphone – it comes as no surprise to see many of the same approaches being reconfigured into mobile apps as well.

Some of these more noteworthy brainstorming apps include:

1. Idea Generator
This is like a slot machine game with words. Shaking your iPhone gives you 3 random words in a line based on 2 adjectives and 1 noun (eg. fresh invisible book, oversize levitating clothing, artificial rubber art). This juxtaposition of random words throws up non-linear ideas that would not normally come to mind.

2. Igen
This is quite similar to Idea Geneator – again based on giving you 3 random words (eg. record during fish, sleeve inner window, roof beneath shoe). The centre word is always a connecting type (eg. during, inner, beneath) – juxtaposing the 2 other words randomly. The app allows one to freeze on one of the words and recombine with a fresh two from the database to carry along a thread, if one wishes – and one can add one’s own words to the database.

3. Whack Pack
This is based on Roger von Oech’s system, well popularised in his earlier books, A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants. It is essentially an electronic  reconfiguation of his Creative Whack Pack card deck, comprising four suits (Explorer, Artist, Judge & Warrior) of 16 cards each. The CreativeWorkshop module of the app gives one a set of 4 cards, drawn at random from each of the 4 suits – forcing one to consider 4 independent yet complementary strategies to solve a particular problem. The Explorer card shows how to look for ideas, the Artist card  how to tranform ideas, the Judge card how to evaluate ideas and the Warrior card how to put the ideas into action.

4. Ideo Method Cards
This is based on the same concept as the Whack Pack, involving 51 cards in 4 suits, titled: Learn, Look, Ask, Try.

Learn cards give you techniques to help you identify patterns in data you’ve collected. Look cards focus on observing people to interpret their behaviours. Ask cards provide ways to involve other people and get their input. Try cards prompt various ways for getting ideas implemented.

5. IdeaPod
This app uses a simple flashcard concept, built on the TRIZ (ie. theory of inventive problem solving) methodology. There are 40 different cards based on the 40 Principles of Invention underpinning TRIZ. When one has a problem to solve, one simply formats it in a few words, then uses the shuffle button to display a card to offer a hint to a solution. One can keep shuffling, tossing up more and more hints – noting the ones of use and deleting those not wanted.

If you have other favourite brainstorming approaches, that you’d like to share – please leave details in the comment box below. Thank you!

PS. For related Torc articles, please click on the following links:
1. Smartphones & Personal Productivity
2. Decision-Making: New iPhone Apps
3. Cloud Computing & Personal Productivity
4. Career Management: New iPhone Apps
5. Interview Tips: New iPhone Apps

PPS. For related training programmes, please click on the pertinent links here:
1. Mastering Personal Effectiveness
2. Management Supervisory Skills
3. Effective Interpersonal Skills
4. Business & Report Writing  

One Response to “Which Brainstorming Apps?”

  1. James Baker says:

    Nice post! Do you know if there are more nice apps to improve creativity? Some that could mix words with images or something?