They can be bright, silly, ingenious, or (usually) just terrible. No matter their quality, though, ideas are the lifeblood of your business. From product lines to organizational strategies to pretty much everything in between, it's not a stretch to say that your business is only as successful as the ideas that power it.
But where does that all brainpower come from? Who's responsible for generating the idea fuel for your company's economic engine? If you're like most businesses, the answer to that question is some version of "everyone." But coordinating, collecting, acknowledging, and vetting all that input can be a daunting task.
Enter the brainstorm tool.
Software for brainstorming comes in all shapes and sizes, but the goal of each brainstorm app is to help you capture lightning in a bottle. So whether you're brainstorming remotely or in person, virtual brainstorming tools can help.
The best brainstorm software
A mind mapping tool like Coggle
Mind mapping is a great way to record the wild flights of fancy that brains can often follow in a storm. Put another way, if you're looking to trace and record the kind of free association that's central to the brainstorming process, a mind map is an invaluable brainstorming tool.
Software like Coggle can provide you with a digital record of your ideas in motion, giving you customizable mapping templates that respond to keyboard shortcuts, so you can get your freshest ideas to the page without delay.
With Coggle, you can manage up to three private mind maps for free, giving you plenty of real estate to capture your thought processes. Whether you're generating concepts for your next marketing campaign, troubleshooting a stalled product rollout, or looking to jumpstart a new project, a mind mapping app can play a key role in keeping your business humming.
Discover more of the best mind mapping software available.
Once your brainstorming software has recorded all of your thoughts-in-progress, automation can step in to take that raw material to the next level while improving your team collaboration. Brainstorm asynchronously, delegate tasks, and keep your stakeholders in the loop—all without the need for a single added click or keystroke.
An online whiteboard like Miro
For capturing your ideas—good, bad, and otherwise—there's no beating your standard whiteboard. This handy piece of furniture is the perfect place to plan and dream, requiring only a few dry erase markers and your bright ideas.
But what if you can't be together to capture those insights in person? Enter: online whiteboards.
An online brainstorming tool like Miro, for example, provides you with templates that will take you from ideas to implementation. Zoom and scroll. Add shapes, text, and sticky notes. Keep your teams literally on the same page, or board, even if you can't all be in the same room at the same time.
If Miro isn't right for you, check out our picks for best online whiteboards.
Flowchart software like Lucidchart
A whiteboard is great for capturing any idea that might have a chance of sticking to a wall. But maybe you need a more orderly approach to planning. For those of you that are more linear in your thinking, a flowchart or diagramming platform is a fantastic option for a brainstorming app.
Lucidchart is one tool that can help. It provides you with a ton of planning functionality, even at the free tier. Choose from specific templates, like API workflows or algorithms, and then chart your processes with a variety of shapes and styles, even Venn diagrams. Manage a host of file types and collaborate in real time to provide your teams with a synchronous interface.
Here are other great flowchart software and diagram tools.
AI apps like ChatGPT
ChatGPT, which is powered by artificial intelligence, can be a great way to efficiently jumpstart your creativity. Other generative AI tools—including AI writing apps like Notion AI—can be a great thought partner throughout the brainstorming process. Ask it a question, see how it responds, and then go back and forth, using it as your robot sounding board.
You can even add AI directly into your brainstorming workflows with Zapier's OpenAI integration and other artificial intelligence integrations. For more inspiration, read how one freelancer uses artificial intelligence and automation to spark content ideas.
Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.
A video conferencing app like Zoom or Webex Meetings
Even the best whiteboards and flowchart tools won't allow you to capture that aha moment on a teammate's face. Video conferencing can provide you with a more personal brainstorming experience, adding an element of free-flowing conversation as well as non-verbal cues into your idea planning mix.
Practically everyone knows about (and uses) Zoom at this stage of the game, but another top contender for a brainstorm app is Webex Meetings. Thanks to a recent overhaul of its platform, not only does it now give you top-quality audio and video, but you'll also get a collaborative whiteboard feature and document sharing.
Beyond Zoom and Webex Meetings, there are other video conferencing tools available to fit your business.
And if video is a step too far for your brainstorming needs, consider team chat apps for dynamic, text-based communication.
Video conferencing tools can be integrated with your other platforms to streamline your follow-up workflows. Automating your video calls with click-free reminders, scheduling, agendas, and tasks removes the manual hassle from these powerful collaborative tools.
A note-taking app like OneNote
Finally, you'll need an effective way to capture all the brilliant insights that will be flying around during your next idea session. After all, there's nothing worse than wrapping up a successful meeting and then struggling to remember the key takeaways once everyone's out of the room.
Note-taking apps are your go-to for this important work. Microsoft OneNote is a great option: it's not only a free brainstorming tool; it's also a flexible platform for capturing and annotating images, text, and even doodles or sketches, if your computer supports a stylus. And as a Microsoft product, the interface will be intuitive for most users.
For more on the best note-taking apps, click away.
If you prefer native apps, take a look at these picks for the best note-taking apps for Mac, iPad, and Android.
And consider these Notion alternatives to help you manage your key data and details more effectively.
Automate your note-taking by generating tasks, drafting documents, and managing resources. Make sure you have all your important info in the right place, without getting bogged down in time-consuming manual updates.
Other tools for brainstorming
You can never have enough good ideas, which is why you can really never get enough tools to help you generate, organize, and capture your brainstorming. The best part about these remaining options is that they'll provide you with a host of different ways to foster your thinking and expand your horizons.
There are plenty of data-backed ways to de-stress and let your mind wander in productive directions.
Don't discount physical exercises, either, which can help spur ideas. Take a hike, for example (uh, in a good way).
You can also change up the medium. Consider powering down and pulling out some paper to brainstorm.
Or, if paper planning feels too limited, you can combine paper techniques with digital ones.
What's the best tool for brainstorming?
It's likely to take some trial and effort to find out which techniques create the best ideas—and most reliably—for your business. And when it comes to brainstorming, the more the better. Try as many of these brainstorm tools as you can possibly fit into your tech stack. Then, connect them to the rest of the apps you use with automation.