You have a new project looming ahead of you and are not quite sure how to define it.  You don’t know what direction to take, what to include, or how to proceed.  Does anyone have any fresh ideas on the subject?  Having a brainstorming meeting might be just the ticket.

The Approach

First, identify all the participants involved in the project and call a meeting.  Next present the project to the group and get ready let the ideas fly.  Don’t hold back because at this stage there are no good or bad ideas. Make no judgment calls as ideas are presented.  To do so has the tendency to stifle participation.

While this is going on, someone must capture the ideas.  The traditional methods are whiteboards, blackboards, easels with a large pad of tear-off sheets to tape to the wall, and possibly large post-it notes. All of these methods have the problem of reorganizing thoughts and later sharing them in a meaningful manner. 

Could a computer program be a better answer? You bet.

A Computer Solution

In my office we use a product called TheBrain by TheBrain Technologies.  We discovered this product when we had a new project coming up and wanted a more efficient way of compiling the ideas that resulted from a brainstorming meeting.  We looked at several products and decided to give this one a try.  A major deciding factor was that they had a free trial version so we could try it out to see if it would work for us. It also seemed to be easy to use.

The Experience

 We found that the system was actually very easy to use.  In our case, we have a conference room with a 43 inch computer display so everyone could see the Project evolve on the screen as the ideas flowed.  The software made it extremely easy to quickly place an idea on the screen, edit it, add to it, and move it around.  This meant the process didn’t hinder the flow of new ideas the way pen and paper has a tendency to do.

Another great benefit of using a computer-based system was the ability to share the results after the meeting with not only the participants but with others who had not attended the meeting.  The result of the session was stored on the network and anyone with a copy of the software could view it.  No one had to transcribe the meeting results for distribution.

We were very impressed with the outcome.

Additional Uses

After our initial experience with the software, we explored some of the other strengths and possibilities of the product.  By now you are probably wondering what a Brain output looks like.  We have a simple example on the home page of our web site.  This is a simple “Brain” we created to display the services that our company offers in a graphical manner.  The sample is actually stored on a shared web site with the Brains of many others.

However, the possibilities extend much further than brainstorming and this simple example.  TheBrain can be used to store information so it can be retrieved more in the way our brain works instead of a rigid hierarchical structure normally found in an office environment.

We have created another brain that represents how our business is organized.  A newly hired employee can browse through the company at their own pace and actually discover what they need to know much more rapidly than be “trained” by someone.  For example, if a customer needs a service that we don’t provide, there is a topic that lists recommended solution providers in our area.  If they want to read the employee handbook, they can find it right there in the Brain.

If you want to explore the possibilities, you can go to the web site, see if this might work for you, and download a trial copy. 



My major point in this article is that you should explore using a computer solution to handle the brainstorming process. There are many other possible software solutions that could work out just as well. If you know of one, please add comments to this article.  This is just one that worked out well for us.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any compensation from products mentioned in this article.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
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