100 Online Brainstorming Tools to Help You Think Outside the Box

A lateral thinking process, brainstorming demands that people come up with ideas and thoughts that can seem shocking or crazy. By using these ideas as a starting point, you can then change and improve them into something useful and original. Below are the top 100 tools, tips, guides, and resources to help you think outside the box and maximize your ideas.

Tips, Sites, and Guides for Brainstorming

Learn how the professionals do it by reading the below. It is full of expert advice on what to do in sessions, as well as what to avoid.

1. Brainstorming Blog: This blog provides tons of resources to keep your brainstorming fresh, fun, interesting, and productive. Get recommendations for books, brainstorming tips, and much more.

2. The Right Way to Brainstorm: Brian Libby of BNET, offers simple steps to an effective brainstorming session. Be sure and check out the comments section for additional components and tips.

3. Ten Brainstorming Rules: Get advice on everything from setting the directions to knowing what ideas to eliminate. You can also get links to other helpful brainstorming information.

4. Brainstorming Basics: TRIZ Journal takes you through the basics of brainstorming in this helpful article. Learn the fundamentals, key warm-ups, and more.

5. A User’s Guide to Brainstorming: “U.S. News and World Report” brings you expert advice on brainstorming. Learn the pros and cons of brainstorming, along with tips to do it right.

6. Brainstorming: Start Here: This article is ideal for those who have no idea how to brainstorm. Learn the basics, how to work with others, and more.

7. The Right Way to Brainstorm: Also available as a pdf, this simple guide take you through the basics of brainstorming. Get the six essential steps for an effective brainstorming meeting.

8. Creative Brainstorming Techniques: Kim Gordon is a marketing expert at Entrepreneur and gives six ways to come up with million dollar ideas. Get tips on everything from suspending criticism to using other people’s ideas.

9. Applied Imagination: Steve is a blogger from Connecticut who writes about exploring ideas, creative thinking, problem solving, innovation, applied imagination, education, creative studies, and more. Get a host of new ideas and techniques for your brainstorming, or even send him a question.

10. Seven Secrets to Good Brainstorming: Learn how many participants to have, what time to do your brainstorming, and even what foods to have. You can also get useful links to related topics.

11. Six Surefire Ways to Kill a Brainstorm: Just as important as what to do is what never to do. Get the rules on who should speak, when to speak, and what to never say.

12. Eight Tips for Better Brainstorming: Learn when to work as an individual or group and more with this helpful guide from Business Week. Get the do’s and don’ts, as well as other useful information from Robert Sutton, professor at Stanford’s School of Engineering.

14. Tips for Personal Brainstorming: Chuck Frey is a brainstorming expert and offers these easy to follow tips. You can also get other creative solutions and inspiring quotes.

15. Creative Think: Roger von Oech is an award winning creative thinker and offers many brainstorming products on this site. You can get an application for your iPhone, an X-ball, or read his blog full of expert tips.

16. Brainstorming Strategy: Not settling on the first idea is just one of the tips you can get from this article. You can also get a hypothetical problem involving a furniture company along with solutions.

17. A Trojan Horse of Mediocrity: This author has a lot of experience running brainstorm sessions, and as a result hates them. Learn what pitfalls to avoid to keep participants from feeling the same way.

18. Brainstorming for Families: Got an issue at home that needs discussing or solving? Then use this guide from Home & Family to show you how to get kids, adults, and teens involved in the brainstorming process.

19. Brainstorming Handout: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gives their students this handout to help them brainstorm. Get tips, techniques, and more.

20. How to Run a Brainstorming Meeting: Scott Berkun is a best selling author and offers his advice on brainstorming. Learn the necessities, processes, actions to take, and more when running a meeting.

21. Enhanced Creativity in Brainstorming: Karen is from the Carleton University in Canada and shows you how to work creativity into your brainstorming. Be sure to read the study results at the end to see which brainstorming groups were most effective.

22. Don’t Give In to Limited Thinking: Learn when to ditch an idea that isn’t going anywhere with the help of this article. You can also see when an idea needs to be modified, rather than thrown out.

23. Tips for Personal Brainstorming: Working on your own? Then follow these two easy steps for the best individual brainstorming.

24. Top 5 Brainstorming Tips: If your brainstorming sessions are coming up short, try these five tips. They include criticism, change, feeding the masses, beefing it up, and copying.

25. The Key to Effective Brainstorming: This article is full of easy to follow tips to get everyone involved in the brainstorming session. There are also links to related information.

26. Facilitating a Brainstorm Session: Get back to the basics of brainstorming with the help of Office Arrow. Read the four essential steps or get more information on a number of business related topics.

27. Step by Step Guide to Brainstorming: The organizational experts at JPB offer this free guide to brainstorming. Follow these seven easy steps to maximize your group session.

28. Brainstorming for Bloggers: Do you contribute to a blog but find yourself running out of ideas? Then read this article by Vandelay Design to get the creative juices going.

29. Brainstorming Help: With over 2,000 articles to choose from, eHow has tons of information on the practice. You can get everything from the generalized basics to brainstorming for specific ideas or projects.

30. Video Help: With everything from brainstorming for public speaking to holiday preparations, this series of videos has everything you need on the topic. You can find help with everything from creative to brainstorming for professionals.

Brainstorming Techniques

With tons of brainstorming techniques available, it is no wonder that the following are the most popular due to their accessibility and effectiveness for outside the box thinking.

31. 25 Brainstorming Techniques: Celestine left her career at a Fortune 100 company to help others find their passion. She also gives 25 essential techniques for maximizing brainstorming sessions.

32. SCAMPER: Developed by Bob Eberle, this brainstorming tool stands for: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put, Eliminate, and Reverse. Each step is identified and shown how to utilize in brainstorming.

33. Word Games: This easy and fun way to warm up your mind is an excellent way to begin a brainstorming session. With dozens of games to choose from, you can brainstorm just about anything.

34. Cause and Effect Analysis: Listing all the possible causes and effects of a problem is an efficient way to brainstorm it. Learn how to utilize this brainstorming method and get helpful diagrams as well.

35. Mind Maps: Have a bunch of random thoughts and need to get them organized? Then try the Mind Maps technique as taught on this site, complete with sample diagrams and tips.

36. SWOT Analysis: This brainstorming method is used to analysis a problem’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Get an illustrated diagram, uses for corporate marketing, and more.

37. Random Input: When stuck in a particular mode of thinking, random input helps by associating previously unthought of nouns and verbs into brainstorming. Directions on how to use this tool, key points, and examples can be found on this site.

38. Kailedoscope Brainstorming Process: This five step method is ideal for those who want an advanced brainstorming session. Developed by Dr. Murthy of Nisvara Inc, this process makes use of both silence and communication.

39. The Reframing Matrix: This simple technique helps you look at business problems from a number of different viewpoints. An instructional diagram is included, along with other brainstorming tips.

40. Starbursting: By bombarding a topic or idea with questions, the answers can provide valuable brainstorming insight. This method comes with a sample worksheet and example diagram.

41. Business Impact Analysis: By imagining the best and worst case scenarios, brainstormers can get a leg up just as professional business planners do. Get examples and other business tools from this site.

42. Affinity Diagram: Have too much information and don’t know where to start? Then use this diagram to organize and sort through your ideas.

43. Reverse Brainstorming: By looking at a problem in reverse, you can approach it from a different angle. Sample reverse questions are provided, as well as tips and steps for using this method.

44. The Nominal Group Technique: Have one person who is talking over everyone else? Then try this technique to separate and assign, making sure everyone has a voice.

45. The Lotus Blossom Technique: Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, Director of the Clover Management Research in Japan, this technique is based upon the petals of the lotus flower. The six major steps of this technique are discussed, along with helpful diagrams.

46. The Crawford Slip Method: Need to get ideas from a large group of people with just a little time? Then try this method for involving everyone and collecting ideas.

47. Brainwriting: By drawing a simple sheet, identifying problems, and getting everyone to write a solution, you can utilize this simple technique. There are also examples of this technique to help you get started.

48. Bisociation: By forcing or banging ideas together, you can utilize this tool for your brainstorming sessions. You can also get information on forced association and cognitive dissonance.

49. Eye Wire Cards: This free pdf file contains 20 colorful creativity cards that can greatly help with brainstorming. Each card contains an exercise such as “change viewpoints,” ” think in opposites” and “shake your habits.”

50. The 100 What’s of Creativity: This free pdf contains one hundred questions to spur your creativity, unstick your mind, and maximize brainstorming. As the title suggests, questions range from “what if you asked a fool?” to “what if it was a superhero?”

52. Jump Start: This free internet tool helps in just about any brainstorming word problem. Just type in your challenge, and Jump Start will instantly provide a list of related adjectives.

53. The Idea Lottery: Make connections between seemingly unrelated elements with this free tool. In four easy steps, Idea Lottery will provide you with tons of answers to your challenges.

54. Job Force: Need to use a random challenge in your brainstorming session? Then visit job force for a list of brainstorming problems to use in your own session.

55. Random Word Technique: Type a description of your problem into the form, get random words, choose one, and get a list of solutions with this free online brainstorming service.

56. Watizit Creative Idea Generation Tool: Use Watizit to generate ideas for coming up with new approaches to problems, products, and other projects. By answering questions and utilizing pictures, this technique helps take your brainstorming in new directions.

57. Creative Problem Solving: The Solution Machine on this site allows you to mimic the brain’s creativity process. It can even evaluate the solutions you’ve already created.

58. Random Picture Generator: This site is ideal for those who need to throw something random into their brainstorming process. It offers dozens of thought provoking images at the click of a button.

59. Brain Teasers and Riddles: Need to engage a group quickly? Then choose one of the eleven problems on this site. Just scroll down for the answers if you’re stuck.

60. Visual Brainstorming: When verbal brainstorming fails, go visual. By collaboratively generating ideas without using the spoken or written word, you can come up with incredible solution. Examples and tips are given.

For Internet and Computer

Brainstormers who utilize there computers for sessions, research, and more will wonder how they ever got along without the help of these free and useful resources.

61. MindMeister: This is a free and easy way to make online mind maps. It allows you to brainstorm and share ideas, plan projects, think visually, and more.

62. FreeMind: One of the few brainstorming softwares available at no cost, Freemind works on all java capable programs. It is compatible with Windows, Linux, and Macintosh OS X.

63. Bubbl.us: This is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online. Bubbl.us allows you to create maps online, embed in a blog or website, as well as the option to save or print your maps.

64. ThinkGraph: This free software uses a combination of 2D drawings and Concept Maps that allow you to easily illustrate your thoughts. You can also get tips, guides, and examples on the site.

65. XMind: Utilizing Web 2.0 concepts, this software infuses team brainstorming and personal mind mapping. Basic service is free and you can even convert mind maps into a pdf or PowerPoint.

66. Customize Google: This amazing Firefox extension enhances Google search results by adding extra information from Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN, etc. as well as removing ads and spam. This site also offers an instructional video to help you maximize your brainstorming.

67. GooglePreview: Get previews of websites after using a google search to see if it is worth visiting without navigating away. This add-on also gives popularity ranks and is compatible with Yahoo.

68. Googlebar Lite: A must for anyone doing web brainstorming. This lightweight toolbar gives you twelve types of searches, the ability to customize, and much more.

69. Drill Down: One of the easiest tools to use, this is a diagram to be filled out with your own ideas, along with each action for those ideas. It will help you stay on task and manage brainstorming time wisely.

70. Mycroft Project: Add thirty popular search plug ins with this one add-on. Brainstormers can instantly utilize Yahoo, eBay, Lycos, Altavista, and more.

71. BetterSearch: If you use Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Delicious for your brainstorming, try this add-on. It allows previews, the option to open in new window, site info, links, and a quick preview feature to the search results.

73. ErrorZilla Plus: This add-on is perfect for brainstormers who constantly get the same error page over and over. ErrorZilla will replace that page with help from Google Cache, Wayback, and others.

74. Googlepedia: Want to see the Wikipedia entry that goes with your brainstorm search? Then get this add on which also allows you to click on links in the article to start new searches.

75. Breadcrumbs: A search engine for your personal browsing history, Breadcrumbs saves your visited pages. Perfect for brainstormers with long research sessions, it also allows you to search your pages from a toolbar and stores data locally to protect your privacy.

76. Ressurect Pages: Dead pages and broken links are no longer a problem with this add-on. It searches caches and archives that mirrored the content while it was available, so that brainstorming sessions can continue without time-costly searches.

77. NextPlease: Hate hitting the Back button to go to the next item searched during a brainstorming session? Utilize NextPlease to continue searches without reloading pages.

78. StumbleUpon: Need to brainstorm on the web but don’t know where to start? Use Stumble Upon for web sites based on your interests and it even gives you recommendations.

79. DownloadHelper: This application is ideal for brainstormers who need to use pictures or videos in their sessions. With this add-on, you can easily save videos from some of the most popular video sites, as well as capture all the images from a gallery in a single operation.

80. DownThemAll: This download manager features an advanced accelerator that increases speed up to 400%. The only program of its kind built for Firefox, it allows you to pause and resume downloads at any time.

81. Stealther: Ideal for those who want to surf suspicious sites without leaving a trace. Turn on Stealther during your brainstorming session to temporarily disable history, cookies, and avoid crashes during meetings.

82. NoScript: Winner of the “2006 PC World Class Award,” this tool alerts you about the web bugs, ad networks, and widgets on every page on the web. It allows JavaScript and other executable content to run only from trusted domains of your choice, guarding you against cross-site scripting attacks and Clickjacking attempts.

83. Ghostery: Turn the tables on websites who are watching you with this add-on. It will alert you to web bugs, ad networks, and widgets on every page you visit.

84. Cleeki: Select any text on your screen, and Cleeki can search, share, publish, and preview results in the same page. Ideal for brainstormers who need to search multiple items.

85. Brain Power Newsletter: Constantly have to do brainstorming sessions? Then sign up for this free newsletter full of tips, ideas, articles, and information on increasing your brain power.

For Sale

Those with as little as four dollars can purchase some of these recommended brainstorming tools. Ranging from books to software, you are sure to find something useful.

86. MindManager: With a free 30 day trial, MindManager allows you to manage to do lists, run effective meetings, brainstorm without limitations, and much more. You can even get a mini preview on this site.

87. Mind Genius: This software is available for a free, 21 day trial. Whether for business or education, it allows you to quickly gather your thoughts, access your information, and get things done.

88. BrainStorm: This software makes it easy for you to capture information from your head, computer screen, or any file. Available for a free 30 day trial, you can even publish your brainstorms on the web.

89. VisiMap: This is a creativity and productivity application for Windows that saves time and offers new flexibility in exploring and organizing your thoughts. It is available for a free 60 day trial and you can get a screenshot gallery.

90. MindMapper: Offered as a free trial, this software allows you to input your ideas into your computer in various ways. They also have different versions for professionals, educators, and more.

91. Axon: An idea processing software, Axon lets you visualize your ideas and save them. It can be used for concept mapping, creative writing, and brainstorming.

92. Inspiration Software: This software can be used to successfully help project teams and brainstorming groups work productively and improve performance. You can download a free trial for business use, as well as for parents and educators.

93. Get Unstuck and Get Going: This book is so popular, it regularly sells out. Author Michael Bungay Stanier shows you how to pinpoint what matters, generate ideas, form an action plan, and get unstuck like the professionals do.

94. 30 Minutes to Brainstorm Great Ideas: For just $3.95 you can download this eBook and handy guide to brainstorming. It will show you how to get into the creative habit by making new connections, creating springboards, and brainstorming as part of a team.

95. Your Creative Power: Written by brainstorming expert, Alex F. Osborn, this book starts at $9.45. It shows you how to discover creative power and then how best to develop and hone that power.

96. Free the Genie: This deck of 55 creative thinking cards are a powerful brainstorming assistant available anytime, anywhere to help unstick your thinking. You can buy the deck, or play four online brainstorming games for free.

97. Unstuck: This is a self-help book, brainstorming tool, and action planning system all in one. You can even get a preview and quiz for free on the site.

98. Creativity a la Card: Each card contains a quote regarding creativity, a “Stretch-ercize” designed to get you thinking in new directions, and whimsical drawing that fits with the theme of each card. The cards also use the power of quotes to get you brainstorming.

99. Personality Poker: Got conflicting personalities in the room? Then use this game to help people understand each other and collaborate effectively.

100. ThinkCube: This new idea takes the brainstorming card deck to the next level. Not only does it provide a diverse selection of thought-provoking stimuli, it also incorporates a simple innovation process that results in a higher quality of ideas.

Brainstorming is one of the most challenging collaborative activities to carry out in a group. While some people think they know how to brainstorm, few have really gotten the basic rules needed to make a brainstorming session work effectively. Until now. With these 100 tools, your brainstorming sessions can go farther than ever.