12 Best Free Online Brainstorming Tools in 2020

What are the best tools for brainstorming in 2020?

Brainstorming is the start of open innovation, yet coordinating it can require a substantial amount of creativity on your part. These web-focused brainstorming tools will allow you and your team to put together more ideas and collaborate smoothly, even when you’re miles away. But, how do we get started?

Watch this excellent video by Sprouts, an online organization dedicated to learning, science, and ideation. The video talks about how to leverage brainstorming tools and create the right environment to incite employees to speak up and share their ideas. For example, a brainstorming tool that allows employees to share ideas anonymously and lets them vote between these is one way of helping employees who may otherwise not be comfortable sharing their ideas in public.

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to get started with your thinking, here are some tools to inspire you and help you overcome barriers to innovation.

Google Docs & Google Sheets

Google Docs, of which Google Sheets is a subset, is the modern scratch paper. The free collaborative web-based software makes it simple to upload a document, create a tracking table, and use all the other features with a team, sharing documents with each other and collecting edits.

Slack

Slack is often viewed as a chat app, but its real value lies in its name: Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge. Originally built to develop a video game, Slack’s value is that it keeps your chats, shared documents, and links permanently, so you can just search for the item you need instead of having to ask someone to share it again.

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Microsoft Teams

Microsoft’s response to both Slack and Google Docs is Microsoft Teams. The goal of Teams is to put everything you need to finish a project on one platform. It’s most powerful when paired with Microsoft Office, but robust third-party support makes it a useful tool for teams that have downtime at the airport or may only have a phone or tablet with which to work.

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Lucidchart

Lucidchart offers a nice solution to help ease the ideation process by allowing users to collaborate in real-time. It not only offers a basic whiteboarding tool for brainstorming, but it also allows users to create more advanced process mapping and systems design.

IdeaBoardz

If you like to organize your ideas in a tangible way, like with pushpins and note cards, IdeaBoardz translates that experience to a browser.  It allows members of a group to make virtual sticky notes and place them under chosen categories. A Like button serves as an informal polling mechanism among teams, especially if you’re managing a big group; as likes collect, the more popular crowdsourced ideas stand out.

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Coggle

Coggle creates mind maps. Write down a term, begin free-associating, and add each association as a bubble with arrows and connections.

MindMeister

Available on the web and updating in real-time, MindMeister’s virtual whiteboard allows you and your team to collaborate and discuss no matter where you happen to be.

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This video reviews Coggle, MindMeister, and Draw.io, three excellent mind-mapping softwares. They discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each brainstorming tool. Options like Coggle and MindMeister are easier to use, whereas Draw.io gives you a wider variety of options. Which one do you prefer?

Visual Thesaurus

Visual Thesaurus generates association trees from any word you type in. For example, if you type in “car,” it’ll create trees not just for roads, but for train cars, sidecars, and so on. It’s useful for finding the right word to describe a concept, but it can also bridge creative gaps when you’re searching for a metaphor or a different approach. The tool also offers definitions and pronunciations of unfamiliar words, so you’ll learn something along the way.

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Freeplane

If you’re comfortable with open source software, Freeplane offers a powerful alternative to typical collaborative software and will run on any system that can support the current version of Java.

Bubbl.us

Perfect for freeform structure and design, Bubbl.us lets you layout bubble charts with ease.

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MindMup

MindMup is another free mind map maker online. You can easily access your mind maps from anywhere via any device. When you’re done mind-mapping, you can publish and share your mind maps online or present to your colleagues by converting them to PDFs or PowerPoints.

Ideament

The freeform approach often necessary for brainstorming presents a problem afterward: organizing everything. Ideament turns mind maps, flow charts, and other flowing approaches into easily shared text outlines.

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