The Best Brainstorming Software for Teams Working Remotely: Collaborate and Create a Virtual Thinktank with these Apps and Tools

Sean Lund-Brown

When it comes to working with teams, figuring out how to brainstorm effectively can be a challenge, to say the least. First, you’ve got a group of people who all have different working styles and thought processes. Then, there’s the problem of brainstorming in a way that works for the group. And when you add in the new (for some) aspect of remote teams, it becomes an even bigger challenge to keep brainstorming a collaborative process.

Fortunately, the Internet of Things has stepped up, once again, and delivered a selection of apps and tools that are designed specifically for brainstorming, collaboration, and keeping remote teams connected. You can find tools in all shapes and sizes for teams of all kinds, whether you need virtual meeting tools, whiteboards, file sharing boards and apps, or even an all-in-one platform that delivers a little bit of everything.

Of course, with so much selection, how’s one to choose? We’ll get you started— below, you’ll find the best software and apps designed for remote teams who need a better way to brainstorm. We went through the best tools on the market and picked the top of the top to help you find the solutions that work for you and your team. You’ll be sure to find plenty of great options to increase the power of your tech stack and the potential of your creative energies combined.

Where did brainstorming come from, though?

First, let’s talk a little more about brainstorming and where the concept came from. It hasn’t just always existed, after all. People have been having ideas forever, but the actual process of sitting down to use a group’s efforts to “storm a creative problem”, as written in the 1948 book Your Creative Power by Alex Osborn. This was the first reference to the modern concept of brainstorming, and its central process remains much the same.

There are four rules for using the power of storming the brain to solve a problem, according to Osborn. First, no negative feedback is allowed; instead, you should be encouraging big thinking. You should also focus on quantity more than quality. It's about cranking out as many ideas as you can and then working through them later. Part of that process includes the fourth rule: use the other team members’ ideas as launching points for the next succession of ideas.

Unfortunately, as effective as it is for several teams, brainstorming has also gotten a reputation as a time-waster because when it isn’t done well, it’s the exact opposite of effective. Fortunately, with the right strategies (and the tools that promote them), it’s easy to ensure that your team is on the right track to exploit the full potential of brainstorming and what it can do for your organization.

Everyone has their own ways, but there are some basic concepts that can be most effective when you are trying to brainstorm with the best:

·      Use word associations

·      Use brainstorming prompts

·      Consider related subjects

·      Create or get rid of boundaries

That last one is tricky because it can go either way—sometimes a brainstorm needs structure; other times it needs to be set free completely. Knowing the difference will make the difference in your success.

The best tools and apps on the market today include features designed to promote effective brainstorming and can even help you make it fun for the team instead of another wasted Zoom meeting.

And while you’re trying to figure out how to brainstorm with a better solution for your creative process, let our virtual receptionists handle the storm of leads, appointments, and inquiries that are coming to your business both online and over the phone, providing you with support for your mission critical services and giving you more freedom to go where your business needs you.

Mindly

Mindly is a great mobile brainstorming tool that gives you the chance to connect with teams, create maps that you can share, and getting started takes just seconds. You can stay connected to the main idea as you spread out across the page with your idea generation, sync mobile mind maps, and create maps for all kinds of projects and processes that your company is working on. The tool is among the best mobile option out there today and it’s got a free version that gives you up to three mind maps and 100 elements.

Mindly makes everything easy. From brainstorming to syncing to accessing your ideas and collaborations on the go, it’s all right there. You can also choose to pay to upgrade for iOS or Android, which gives you access to unlimited features and allows you to experience the full potential of what this app has to offer.

The best part? Android users will pay just $5.49. For iOS users, it’s $6.99 in the App Store.

Stormboard

Stormboard is one of the most robust tools for team brainstorming that constantly surprises first-time users. It’s gone beyond index cards and sticky notes to a whole new level of features and tools. You will be able to put notes anywhere on the screen and connect them at your leisure, which means brainstorming can happen organically and doesn’t have to be forced. It’s also uniquely designed for remote collaboration and sharing, and it’s doing great at delivering there, too.

You'll be able to record and share comments, create tasks, vote on ideas, and ask for and give feedback. It makes it easy to manage all kinds of ideas and brainstorming sessions and keep them all organized in the same place. Plus, it’s easy to integrate with other tools that you use and there’s a free plan available, too.

With the free plan, you’ll get a personal account with five boards. When you upgrade to the Startup Plan, you’ll get advanced tools and features for just $5 per month.

Scapple

Scapple has redefined the brainstorming game, giving remote teams a tool that allows more freedom and creativity in the process. Instead of starting from the middle, or a “main idea”, you can start from any point that you want and go from there. That will allow you to sketch out everything from whatever idea comes your way. You can start upside down or from the left, or even from an idea of feedback on the finished product and work from there.

It's great for unique team collaboration and has a simple user interface. Plus, it makes it flexible to create mind maps and brainstorms that everyone can follow. You can share and collaborate with ease and the 30-day trial is for 30 days of use, not just 30 consecutive days.

You can use it free if you don’t use it often, but the $10 fee isn’t much for a great tool that your whole team can use.

MindMeister

MindMeister is a tool that’s easy to use and it gives you the chance to collaborate in real-time. Plus, you can get mobile access on iOS and Android, and it’s a cloud-based platform that can be scaled to the needs of your business. It's not free, but the price is more than fair for what you get. The site makes it easy to create maps and share them with anyone, and you can sign up with Google or Facebook if you prefer.

This app lets you collaborate anywhere and share with everyone, and you can comment, vote, and discuss things via chat, as well. You can even create presentations and slideshows, broadcast to your website or in a live format, and more. This tool isn’t free, but its robust brainstorming and idea management tools make it worth the small price that it costs.

If you can get by with the limited features, personal accounts are just $4.99. Of course, if you really want to maximize the tool, it’ll only cost $14.99 for a business account.

Coggle

Coggle is one of the easiest free forever options for mind mapping and brainstorming. The user interface is among the friendliest that you’ll find and getting started is easy. You can log in and go right to work on the main dashboard, creating new ideas, starting new brainstorming sessions, and more. You can even choose where things go, rearrange the layouts, and integrate keyboard shortcuts for ease of use.

You can format the messages and items in every mind map, which means you can go basic or get creative, or even just designate a certain font or style for each concept or area of the storm. Coggle has all kinds of impressive features, including easy sharing and a presentation mode that offers advanced collaboration. Plus, it’s all available without a big investment in some heavy software platform.

The basic single-user plan that includes three diagrams is free forever, and Coggle offers unlimited diagrams and premium features for just $5 per month.

LucidChart

For teams that want a more linear approach, LucidChart has several different tools that provide great brainstorming support. There is even an integrated Google image search and a chat feature to allow teams to collaborate in real-time. It's a popular tool that really takes flowcharts to the next level for teams that need to keep things a little more streamlined. This tool is designed to improve communication and speed up brainstorming sessions.

LucidChart makes it easy to create shared visions and keep everyone on the same page (quite literally). You can map data flows, create process maps, plan and organize ideas, scale infrastructure, and so much more. No matter what you need, this visualization tool will help you get it done.

While there is a free account with basic access, you’ll probably prefer the Team Accounts option at $21 per month. There's also a Pro Account for $8.33 per month if you want a happy medium.

Wisemapping

Wisemapping is a free tool that’s easy to use for teams that need something simple, straightforward, and free. The tool is accessible from the web and makes it easy to import and export files, share ideas and collaborate, and connect in real-time without having to invest in a huge software tool. You can use the flexible canvas any way that you’d like and even link files to make it easy to share.

It’s one of the best free tools and while it might not be as robust as some of the options out there, it does everything that you need. Plus, for those who are concerned about security, Wisemapping offers the option for a private server download so that you can use the tool safely and never worry about sensitive information or confidential ideas and projects. It's got a simple user interface that’s easy for all kinds of users to navigate and it’s 100% free, always.

Streamline your idea collaborations while Smith.ai streamlines your day-to-day workflows

As you can see, there’s a lot to love about modern brainstorming and mind mapping apps. For remote teams, half the battle in figuring out how to brainstorm is finding the right tools for the job. Fortunately, while you’re fighting the good fight, you can rely on our team to handle all of those mission-critical tasks that need dedicated attention.

The virtual receptionists at Smith.ai will give you more time for collaborating and creating, and taking care of your clients and customers, by helping with 24/7 phone answering and messaging services, plus so much more. When you want to collaborate with a partner that can really offer a good solution, why not work with a team that can create a custom one just for you?

At Smith.ai, we can. Nothing is stopping our team from helping you get every single phone call, email, and message answered and properly handled, no matter what you might be working on yourself. Even if you just need assistance with after-hours call answering and 24/7 live chat services so that you can get some sleep, we’ll keep the midnight oil burning.

Schedule your consultation now to find out how our virtual receptionists can help you streamline your workflows and free up your time. You can also reach us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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