Struggling with a challenge you just can’t seem to beat? You’re not alone. Challenges are a part of everyone’s life—something none of us can avoid. Some challenges are easy to overcome. Others we agonize over. Finding a way to pay for college, for example, is a challenge for many parents and students. Having too many challenges at the same time can overwhelm us and make us miserable. If only we had an easy-to-use tool to help us beat challenges.
Well, we do. It’s called brainstorming. When done correctly, brainstorming helps develop creative solutions to even your toughest challenges. This easy-to-use tool also improves the working atmosphere in a group, generates a high amount of ideas, and has a cost to output that’s low. And it only takes a few minutes of your time. Whether done alone or with others, brainstorming pays dividends in many situations.
Brainstorming Barriers to Avoid
Brainstorming is a highly versatile tool. If you’re not familiar with the technique, it comes from Alex Osborn, a New York advertising executive. He developed the original approach in 1953 and published in a book called “Applied Imagination.” Today, there are many variations of Osborn’s original approach.
Brainstorming combines a relaxed, informal approach to solving challenges and uses lateral thinking to generate ideas. Lateral thinking is a process of using information to think creatively about a situation.
But like many problem-solving tools, barriers to using this proven technique exists. Understanding them beforehand can help you overcome them. Barriers to brainstorming include:
• Patterns or one unique answer
• Evaluating things too quickly
• Not challenging the obvious
• Fear of looking like a fool
• Self-imposed barriers
The last barrier often results when analytical thinkers struggle to switch to the creative thinking process that goes on when brainstorming.
Brainstorming barriers are overcome, says J. Geoffrey Rawlinson, by identifying them up front with the people involved. “After conducting brainstorming sessions around the world for almost 3 decades, I tend to agree with Rawlinson,” says Robert Nelson, consultant and author. “The benefit of discussing the barriers is especially true when dealing with audiences that are analytical in nature, such is often the case with managers.”
Six Brainstorming Tools for Education
Educational Technology is no stranger to brainstorming. The six web tools mentioned below are ideal for both students and teachers. Relatively new, these tools can help you not only improve brainstorming sessions but also create visually appealing mind maps. A mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts.
1. Poppet — This web tool is designed to help you capture and organize ideas. Perfect for school or work, it can help you generate ideas while on the go. Students can use it to capture thoughts, facts, and images and learn to create relationships between them. Teachers and professionals can use it to brainstorm or jot down notes. It also works on IPads.
2. MindMeister — Well suited for collaborative brainstorming, this tool is the most popular of its kind. You can also use it for note taking, project planning, and other creative tasks. It lets you create and share mind maps brainstormed by collaborators, who can see changes made to the map real time. They can then make comments and discuss changes in an integrated chat.
3. SpiderScribe.Net — A Cloud-based app, this tool lets you capture and organize text notes, files, images, events, and locations. It also lets you create private or public maps, work on and share maps with others, and access it from anywhere. Perfect for visual thinkers, it’s ideal for improving brainstorming.
4. Text 2 Mind Map — This tool is well suited for students and people that like more structure when brainstorming and creating mind maps. You can use it to create a text outline and then transform the outline into a visual mind map. Use it to create mind maps for free. Options are available for a fee.
5. Bubble.us — This tools tag line is: Brainstorming made simple. The tool is true to its tag line. Colorful, engaging, and web-based, it saves your mind map as an image, which you can call up later. A visual tool for structuring information, Bubble.us also lets you share and collaborate with others. It works on all platforms and with both desktop and mobile devices.
6. Scapple — Design for both the Windows and Mac OS platforms, this solution is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down quickly and making connections between them. It’s a free-form text editor that lets you take notes anywhere on the page and connect them using straight dotted lines of arrows. Scapple has no built-in hierarchy, so students and others can connect their ideas however they want.
These six web tools can help you embrace creative brainstorming. They can also increase your productivity—whether you’re a student, teacher, or professional. If you have a really tough challenge to tackle—and which of us don’t—brainstorming can help you beat it quickly and cost-effectively. Often, it’s just what the doctor ordered to help conquer a challenge.