Brainstorming – developing and capturing creative ideas – is a primary use of mind mapping software. But not all programs provide the same level of support for this important function. Here are the four mind mapping tools that do the best job of supporting brainstorming, in my opinion:
NovaMind Platinum with the optional Suggesterator add-in
NovaMind excels at creating engaging, colorful mind maps. By default, each branch in a NovaMind map has a different color. Although it doesn’t have a specific brainstorming mode, you can enter ideas quickly and easily into a NovaMind map. You simply type your topic name, and then hit the Enter key twice – this adds your new topic to the map and opens another one at the same level. The program also provides excellent support for adding images to increase the visual appeal of your maps.
What makes NovaMind Platinum especially well-suited for brainstorming, however, is an optional Suggesterator module (only available for NovaMind Platinum), which can be used to provide you with keyword stimuli during the ideation process. It does this by displaying a list of words that are closely related be selected topic in your map – something like an electronic thesaurus. You can utilize this tool to identify other categories or subjects for inclusion in your mind map, and to provide valuable momentum for your brainstorming session. The Suggesterator opens in a separate panel within the NovaMind interface; to add suggested keywords to your map, you simply select them and click on the “add child branches” button.
You can view a video that shows how the Suggesterator works here.
MindManager 8 plus theRealizer 2 add-in
By itself, the MindManager 8 is a fairly good application for capturing and organizing ideas. It contains a brainstorming mode that is ideal for group ideation. You can quickly add ideas in a form field at the top of the brainstorming workspace, using only a keyboard. This view also contains a countdown timer, so you can set a time limit on your brainstorming sessions. MindManager inserts them into your map as floating topics. When you’re done recording ideas, it’s time to group them. MindManager’s brainstorming panel also enables you to easily create groups – “buckets” into which you want to logically group your ideas. You then drag and you’re your floating ideas to attach them to group topics.
Another way to brainstorm within the MindManager environment is by installing an add-in program called theRealizer 2. It installs as a separate panel on the right side of the MindManager workspace, and walks you through a simple step-by-step process to define your challenge, generate ideas and prioritize them. The program installs with a set of predefined challenges, to which you can easily add your own. Brainstorming is done via a series of randomly displayed “idea cards, “which help to stimulate your thinking in some fresh new directions. You can also add, edit or delete the program’s collection of idea cards to customize it to your specific needs.
I think theRealizer is an excellent creative catalyst, and I like the fact that you can customize it with your own challenge statements and idea cards. To help you better understand how this program works with MindManager, I recommend that you view this video.
Visual Mind plus theRealizer 2
This marvelous brainstorming program is also available as an add-in for Visual Mind. You can learn more about it here.
iMindMap, which was developed by the Buzan organization, provides a very organic visual mapping experience, which lends itself well to brainstorming. Like NovaMind, each branch you create in iMindMap is randomly assigned a color, adding visual appeal to your idea maps. There’s also something engaging about dragging new branches out from existing ones, much like the process of hand drawing a mind map. In addition, when you create a new map in iMindMap, the program asks you to select an image for the central topic – which helps to provide greater visual stimulation than a plain text central topic.
ConceptDraw MINDMAP 6
ConceptDraw MINDMAP 6 is a business-focused mind mapping program that offers a terrific brainstorming mode. It inserts each of your ideas as free-floating topics, which gives you a lot of freedom in grouping and arranging them. The program’s brainstorming view (shown above – click image for larger version) also contains a countdown timer, which enables you to set a time limit on your ideation sessions.
What’s especially nice is that you can continue to add sub-topics to the main topic of your map while in brainstorming mode. This enables you to set up topics and then drag your ideas to attach them to the appropriate ones. Ideas can be added using only the keyboard, which makes ConceptDraw MINDMAP an ideal program for group brainstorming sessions, where the meeting facilitator must be able to add a number of ideas quickly, without the program getting in the way.
Which mind mapping program do you prefer for brainstorming?