For years, SolutionPeople founder Gerald Haman has been passionate about developing new creativity tools. His latest invention, the FlashBrainer, adapts his popular KnowBrainer handheld brainstorming tool into a Flash-powered PC version.
Gerald recently gave InnovationTools an exclusive preview of the FlashBrainer. In this “first look” review, we’ll explore it and we’ll let you know if you should make it a part of your creative problem-solving arsenal.
The FlashBrainer inspires you to develop ideas using music, questions, “what” words, “how” words, quotes and images. It is based upon Gerald’s award-winning KnowBrainer tool – a fan deck of keywords, quotes and thought-provoking images that is now used in over 120 Fortune 500 companies and by innovators in 26 countries (read my review). Both tools are based on the Accelerated Innovation process, a four-quadrant brain model developed by Gerald. The FlashBrainer utilizes much of the structure, format and content of the KnowBrainer, but adds new functionality.
The FlashBrainer tool has four modules: Investigate Needs, Create Ideas, Evaluate Solutions and Activate Plans. The opening screen contains four large buttons, which enable you to quickly enter any stage of the creative problem-solving process. Each step of the creative problem-solving process is color-coded, which helps to give you a strong sense of where you are. The opening screen also contains several controls that enable you to customize the operation of the FlashBrainer. We’ll explore those later. Finally, the opening screen contains a “help” button, which links you to detailed usage tips and a user guide.
The structure of each module is identical. The top part of the screen is dominated by a large, colorful, rectangle containing a keyword or phrase. Below that, color-coded icons enable you to quickly jump to any of the four steps of the Accelerated Innovation process. Below that, five buttons, labeled “questions,” “what,” “how,” “quotes” and “images” give you access to the FlashBrainer’s contents. If you click on any one of these buttons, the FlashBrainer displays cards that help to stimulate creative thinking.
A “logical” button enables you to step through the virtual card deck one card at a time, following the four-step Accelerated Innovation process. The “random” button automatically flashes different stimulus cards from that section of the tool on the screen every 10 seconds. This feature could be especially valuable if your thinking tends to follow well-worn paths, because it forces you to view divergent stimuli.
Finally, a timer on the left side of the user interface enables individuals or teams to do timed brainstorming sessions with the FlashBrainer.
I have reviewed many creative thinking software programs, but I’ve never seen one where music plays such an important part. Gerald has done research that shows that brainstorming with the right kind of background music can stimulate brain activity that corresponds to increased creativity. The music that is included with the FlashBrainer was created especially for this brainstorming tool by an orchestra in Japan. Each of the 18-minute songs is coded with frequencies that stimulate brainwaves and correspond to each step of the Accelerated Innovation process.
Here are some of the things I like about the FlashBrainer:
Nothing concerns me about the initial design and usability of the FlashBrainer. It’s a fine ideation tool. But this first version only contains the field-proven content from the paper-based KnowBrainer. I hope that future versions of the FlashBrainer will expand this virtual card deck to include additional stimulus words, questions, quotes and images.
The FlashBrainer is a fascinating creativity tool that should be a major asset in many types of creative problem solving and ideation applications. However, at a cost of $495 per licensed copy, it’s not something you can affordably roll out on tens or hundreds of corporate desktops. Still, the FlashBrainer can easily pay for itself with one or two big ideas.
[NOTE: As of mid-May, SolutionPeople has dropped the price of the FlashBrainer to $249 for a limited time, and is including free WordBrainer and ExcelBrainer e-tools worth $99 each as part of the deal (a total value of $198). I don't know how long this offer will be available, but I recommend that you check it out now!]