The 10 Best Brainstorming Software Tools for Organizing Business Ideas

“We need to brainstorm, we need to get out of this! Brain hurricane.”

Even Michael Scott from the TV show “The Office” understood the power of a brain hurrica, er, storm.

Brainstorming new ideas is energizing, gets people motivated for change and just plain fun.

Where exactly are your last great business ideas?

Can they be found in a dozen Post-it notes spread around your conference room? Is your whiteboard creatively colorful? Are there piles of printer paper filled to the edge with chicken scratch?

ALL or NONE of the above?

Capturing and documenting ideas that improve operations, help target your ideal customer, and generate more profit is a messy process. People need an easy-to-use tool to quickly access and iterate on those sometimes fleeting ideas.

Brainstorm quickly & efficiently with the help of software

The companies that adopt technology — with intentionality — maximize their team’s efficiency. More specifically, they embrace web based software (no download, no installation, no complicated licensing).

Below are the 10 best brainstorming software tools (all web-based) for organizing your business’ ideas. I’ve used most of these myself and can attest to their value.

1. Evernote

Cost: Free (Premium = $5/month, Business = $10/month)

brainstorming-software-evernote
Image source: Evernote

With a slogan like “Remember everything”, Evernote makes it crystal clear why there are one hundred million users worldwide (I’m one of them).

Evernote can quickly scan and organize whiteboard drawings, post-its, and pencil/pen notes in a snap. In fact, their OCR (Optical Character Recognition) can even search handwriting — even bad handwriting (speaking from experience). Their “Presentation Mode” helps share your ideas and get buy-in.

Though you can use Evernote right in a browser without an install, it also offers a Mac/PC, iOS, Android, and Windows version. I use the desktop and iOS app daily.

[callout]Learn Evernote quickly with Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials. It’s the best short read for learning practical uses in just a few hours![/callout]

2. SlickPlan

Cost: Starts at $6.99/month (30-day free trial)

brainstorming-software-slickplan

If your brainstorm revolves around a website, there’s no better tool for planning the structure of it than SlickPlan. It’s fast at capturing ideas, iterating on them (version control), sharing, and bringing in contributors.

To see SlickPlan in action, check out How to Design the Structure of a Website with Sitemapping in Eight Steps

3. Gliffy

Cost: Starts at $3.99/month (limited free account available)

brainstorming-software-gliffy

Gliffy is an excellent tool for mind mapping  (one of the best ways to capture ideas and bring them to life in a visual form). The tool can also create flowcharts, website wireframes/sitemaps, and org charts. I’ve even used the Floorplan diagrams to plan an office setup.

It’s fast, stores all your files and provides a variety of export features.

4. Google Docs

Cost: Free with a Google account

This may seem like an obvious option, but many people don’t realize or utilize the full power of Google Docs. The Share, Comments, Chat and Revision History features help create a collaborative approach to organizing business ideas. It can also open and edit existing Microsoft Word files.

Also, Google Docs is incredibly simple in function and form — a staple for every Google product.

5. Bubbl.us

Cost: Starts at $6/month (limited free account available)

brainstorming-software-bubbl-us

“Brainstorming made simple” is the Bubbl.us approach, and ‘simple’ is certainly a defining characteristic for this software.

This tool doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, but if you’re in a bind and need a basic mind mapping tool without a tedious signup process — Bubbl.us is your solution. Also, their iOS app offers some flexibility for on the go brainstorming.

6. Mindjet MindManager

Cost: $349 with upgrade options (30-day free trial)

brainstorming-software-mindjet-mindmanager

Another excellent mind mapping software, but takes a bit of work to start using (they ask for a lot of information up front, and their pricing is difficult to find & evaluate).

I was a Mindjet MindManager power user for many years before I got irritated with their unclear and complicated pricing/licensing model. Money disgruntledness aside, the software can turn into a “virtual whiteboard” and also be used for project management. If map customizations and stylizing are critical, this tool delivers.

MindManager offers an Enterprise upgrade option, which I feel is the reason their plans are on the higher-end and not as straightforward as the other software on this list. They also provide a Mac/PC installation.

7. MindMeister

Cost: Starts at $36/every 6 months, limited free account available (30-day free trial)

brainstorming-software-mindmeister

I’ve never used MindMeister, but from their website it looks to be designed very well, possesses all the features you could need, and touts 12-hour support.

Their “Task Management” feature allows you to assign tasks and priorities right within your mind map. Now that’s cool. It also comes with Chat, integrates with a variety of other applications (e.g. Google, Evernote) and allows you to embed your beautiful maps directly into your website.

Also, the “Public Maps” section of their website is a unique resource — giving you a glimpse into how other people use the tool.

8. Popplet

Cost: Free, iPad app = $4.99

brainstorming-software-popplet
Image source: Popplet

Warning: Though Popplet claims it’s for the “Professional”, the personality of the brand and design style feels more suited for educational environments.

Popplet is different than others on this list because it’s iPad-driven. Though they offer a syncing “web-based” version, their pricing and marketing revolves around their iOS app.

The overall features look incredibly basic, and I would only recommend Popplet if your current brainstorming already involves iPads. This software will fit nicely into that workflow.

9. Lucidchart

Cost: Starts at $3.33/month (14-day free trial)

Lucidchart and Gliffy (#3 on list) feel very similar in style and function. In both tools, you can create various types of maps (e.g. mind maps, wireframes, org charts, flowcharts), export and share with collaborators.

Lucidchart boasts some big-name clients (e.g. Disney, Comcast, Ford) but this software will appeal to any SMB.

Pricing Note: the various types of maps you can create ties to your subscription level

10. Wisemapping

Cost: Free (Open-source)

brainstorming-software-wisemapping

This is the only “Open-source software” (software where the original source code is freely available and may be redistributed/modified) on this list.

The obvious upside of Wisemapping is that it’s free to use. The downside is that it’s free to use. Open-source projects typically don’t come with stellar support or add new features regularly.

Similar to Bubbl.us, it’s a tool you can use to organize ideas when you need something fast and free.

10.1 (Honorable Mention)

  1. SpiderScribe
  2. Coggle
  3. Mindomo

Ideas are easy, it’s more about what you DO with them

michael-scott-meme-brain-hurricane-vertIn his book Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky suggests “Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.”

Are your ideas from your last brainstorm being implemented? If not, could the crux be the lack of a software tool?

From the moment the light bulb goes on, be ready — with a brainstorming tool — to organize those business ideas and turn them into tangible results for your business.

It’s time to organize those ideas.

It’s time to maximize those brain hurricanes.