IdeaCue: New brainstorming program is capable, easy to use

IdeaCue, a new software program for developing new product and service ideas, offers some well designed and easy-to-use brainstorming and evaluation tools.

IdeaCue is a fascinating new brainstorming and lateral thinking program that can help you to develop and evaluate new ideas for products and services. It contains two different brainstorming exercises (Idea Engine and Concept Scrambler) and one idea evaluation tool (Concept Analysis).

Although this first version of IdeaCue offers a somewhat limited set of brainstorming tools, they are well designed and easy to use, and are based on proven techniques for generating new product ideas — which makes this inexpensive program a worthwhile investment.

A flash of inspiration

The developers of IdeaCue were originally inspired by flash cards — commonly used by students to learn math facts, spelling words and other types of knowledge.

IdeaCue’s inventors started using flash cards in brainstorming sessions by putting adjectives, product qualities or characteristics on index cards, and then drawing them one at a time at random to see if they sparked any ideas. This technique was so effective that they decided to create a software program that would offer similar capabilities for individual or group brainstorming sessions.

Accordingly, IdeaCue is designed as a customizable “flash card framework,” which displays stimulating concepts and ideas on a random basis. The program’s database can be easily customized to meet the needs of nearly any type of organization, profession or industry.

Idea Engine

The Idea Engine displays single concepts or phrases on the screen, one at a time, to stimulate creative ideas. The Idea Engine database contains words and phrases that represent typical product or service enhancements. As each idea appears on screen, your goal is to think about how you might apply it to your company’s products or services. Examples of idea triggers included in the Idea Engine database are: “combine two products,” “multiple purpose” and “cost less to maintain.”

When you see an idea that you think could be applied to your current situation, you simply click a button to add it to the program’s “idea list” window. You can also type notes in this window, adding your comments, ideas and inspirations after the idea word or phrase that triggered them.

The Idea Engine database is customizable, so you can add terms and attributes that are relevant to your specific business, and delete terms that don’t meet your needs.

Concept Scrambler

In IdeaCue’s Concept Scrambler tool, up to three idea words are “snapped” together — displayed side by side — to trigger new thoughts and concepts. Each time you click the “scramble” button, a new set of three random words is displayed, sort of like a slot machine for ideas.

If a combination of keywords suggests an idea, you can it easily copy them to your idea list and type in any notes that you want to include with it. Notes are saved as rich text files (.RTF format), so you can easily open them with nearly any word processing program to continue refining the ideas you developed in IdeaCue.

Like the Idea Engine, the Concept Scrambler works best when it is customized with product attributes specific to your company and its industry.

Concept Analysis

Concept Analysis, the third element of IdeaCue, is a tool for evaluating new product ideas. It asks 12 basic questions that help you do an initial analysis of your idea’s viability. The questions focus on:

  • Your capabilities (to manufacture the product or provide the service, implement it within budget and sell/market it through your current sales channels, for example),
  • Your market and the competition (how much of a competitive advantage, emerging trends in your industry that could have an impact on your idea’s viability, etc.), and
  • Profit/ROI/sales potential (potential profitability of the idea, potential market size, etc.).

Each question is followed by a numeric list, containing a 1-10 scale. Once you have entered a value for all 10 questions, you click an “analyze” button and IdeaCue will give you an initial analysis of your idea. You can print or save your analysis.

One thing that’s strangely missing from this part of IdeaCue is a text box where you can type in the name of your idea — so it will appear on any printed or saved summaries.

Conclusion

IdeaCue is a capable, well-designed brainstorming program that you can be proficient with almost immediately. The program’s user interface is simple, uncluttered and easy to comprehend. The help file, although brief, is well written, and clearly explains how to get the most out of IdeaCue’s brainstorming and idea analysis tools.

IdeaCue can be purchased and downloaded from the developer’s Web site for $50; multiple licenses are only $25 each. IdeaCue runs on Windows 2000 and XP; a Mac version is not available at this time.

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