improvi is a brilliant new brainstorming app for the iPhone, iPod and iPad that takes a unique approach to stimulating creative thinking. Its user interface is designed to let you drag random words and images onto the screen, where they bounce around and move next to and through each other, helping you to forge free associations that are the key to lateral thinking.
Words and images can be dragged onto the screen from the left and right, by swiping your finger horizontally at either edge of the screen. As they float across the screen, they bounce back from its edges, as if trapped in a virtual box, and slowly fade in and out of view. As these bits of content come close to each other, you can easily free associate with them.
improvi’s content is drawn from a database of thousands of words and images. You can pack the screen with words if you wish, but the developer recommends that three to four words at a time is usually the most productive. If you decide you don’t want to use a word, simply drag and drop it at the edge of the screen and it disappears from view.
Dragging upward from the bottom of the screen displays a set of anchored creativity prompts, which includes such stimuli as “ignore inner critic,” “drop a bombshell” and “reverse assumptions.” According to the improvi website, these prompts were inspired by improvizational theater, but they work equally well as brainstorming prompts. In combination, these two sets of screen prompts can free up millions of possibilities.
In addition, if you tap on an information icon in the lower right corner of the screen, you can add your own words to customize improvi to your needs. They are immediately added to the mix of floating stimuli on the screen of your mobile device. This simple user interface design works well on the iPhone’s small screen, and is even more fun in the iPad’s more expansive environment. There are no distracting buttons or controls on screen – just a simple jet-black canvas, waiting to be painted upon with random stimuli.
improvi can be used for everything from developing business and writing ideas to gnerating prompts for improv sessions and as a self-discovery tool. The developer’s website suggests dozens of possible applications for this simple, well-designed app, but also points out that there is no “right” way to use it. You can invent your own games for improvi.
In the constantly growing world of brainstorming apps for the iPhone and iPad, it seems that many developers have gotten stuck in the same old ruts: Random word generators that mix and match trios of word in spinners or wheels, and notepad-like tools that enable you to capture and tag ideas. Kudos to developer James Gill for breaking out of the constraints of “me-too” brainstorming apps and creating something simple, new and captivating. improvi is a joy to use, and does a great job of kick-starting the brain’s associative powers.
improvi is US$0.99 and is available in the Apple AppStore.
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.