iKnowBrainer App Brings a Process and Diverse Stimuli to Brainstorming on the iPhone

The iKnowBrainer app for iPhone and iPod is a powerful, proven brainstorming tool that has an excellent pedigree - the award winning KnowBrainer card deck, which is now in its fifth edition. This app incorporates all of the content from the physical version, and adds some cool new capabilities, too.

The iKnowBrainer presents the user with hundreds of proven questions, words, quotes and images for inspiration. But these are not random stimuli; they have been vetted by developer Gerald Haman, the president of SolutionPeople, as the stimuli most likely to generate creative ideas.

What also makes the iKnowBrainer unique is that it utilizes a proven four-step ideation process that helps you to clearly define your problem or challenge, develop potential ideas to solve it, evaluate them and put the winning ideas into action. It’s much more than a random word generator, which is what most idea-generation apps are today. Each of the four stages is represented by 10 questions to stimulate answers, 10 nouns to suggest what we should know, 10 verbs to suggest how we should think, five quotes for inspiration and five images to spark your imagination.

How it works

When you first open the iKnowBrainer, you are presented with a screen that asks if you want to start a new ideation project or return to the one you were working on. If you start a new project, the app prompts you with three potential ideation methods:

  • Manual, where you select one or more cards you want to use for brainstorming. You can scroll through the cards, one at a time, by swiping your finger to flip from one card to the next by using the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen – which can jump you between the four stages as well.
  • Automatic, where the app walks you through the cards, one at a time, “playing” them (you can pause the progression of stimuli if you want to focus on one).
  • Shuffle, where the app displays cards at random.

I experimented with all three brainstorming modes, but discovered that both automatic and shuffle seem to function the same. Shuffle is supposed to offer random stimuli, but it just walks you through the cards in order, just like automatic mode does. Perhaps this bug will be fixed in a future version.

To use the iKnowBrainer, you need to have a specific challenge or problem that you want to solve, and some way to record the ideas you generate from using it – either pen and paper or another text-based app. You cannot store ideas within this app.

Options for sharing the iKnowBrainer’s stimuli

The iKnowBrainer enables you to share cards that inspire you with others; you can send the contents of individual cards via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The e-mail option simply opens the e-mail app on the iPhone and copies and pastes the wording from the card (“What should people THINK?” for example) into the body of the message.

When I tried to send the contents of a card to Facebook, the iKnowBrainer first asked me to connect with Facebook, but then gave me an error message. Twitter is ideally suited to sharing the contents of iKnowBrainer cards; the stimuli in the iKnowBrainer are very brief, which makes them fit very well within the popular social media platform’s 140-character limit. The LinkedIn integration works in a similar way: The content of the card is replicated as text in a status update, along with the name of its source and the app’s URL.

I’m not sure how much I would actually use the social media sharing capabilities, but the e-mail integration could come in very useful if you want to inspire your team member with a brainstorming prompt of the day or if you’re trying to get them moving on generating ideas for a new project.


If you’ve read InnovationTools.com for any length of time, you know that I’ve long been a fan of the KnowBrainer. It’s unique among creativity tools because its content has been refined by Haman over time, through extensive research. This app isn’t just a random collection of stimuli. It is a well-refined business tool that is based on Haman’s ongoing research. It’s also unique because of the variety of stimuli it offers. It’s not just a random word generator, but also provides questions, quotes and images to help jump-start your creative muse.

It has been a real treat to see the KnowBrainer transition to the iPhone platform, and to see the new capabilities it has picked up along the way. I especially like the sharing capability – I just wish it worked better.

The iKnowBrainer isn’t cheap; at US$99, it’s the most expensive brainstorming tool in the Apple AppStore. But I believe you get what you pay for. A lot of thought has gone into creating and refining this ideation platform, and ensuring that it will generate high-value ideas. I’m confident you’ll be able to use it to develop ideas that are worth many times what you have invested in it.

By Chuck Frey

About the author

Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded InnovationTools.com and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.

  • http://BoxOnline.com/ Ted Box

    It’s been a year since the App was released and still no sign of an update. Perhaps they don’t even know about the bug you mentioned. Hmmm… it may also be because their website is not operational this month…. or because Haman pulled the plug.