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WEB TOOL FOR BRAINSTORMING - SOFTWARE TOOL FOR GENERATING IDEAS

Dejan Ristevski1(dejan.ristevski@gmail.com), Vane Spasov1(vane.spasov@gmail.com) Milan


Petkovski2(milan.petkovski@yahoo.com), Dimitar Trajanov2(mite@feit.ukim.edu.mk)
1
Lazarov Consulting Engineering, Skopje, Republic Of Macedonia,
2
Faculty for Electrical Engineering and Information Technologies, Skopje, Republic Of Macedonia

Abstract – The Web Tool for Brainstorming is software Reversal and SCAMPER – which is used for
tool for generating creative ideas. About creativity, improving a product or service
brainstorming, mind tools and software for electronic Attribute Listing, Morphological Analysis and
brainstorming is described in this paper. The software is Matrix Analysis – used for creating new
designed for helping the people that are responsible in products, services and strategies
decision making areas like project management, company Brainstorming – for generating many radical
management, education, art etc. This tool helps in ideas
decision making by simply writing the key words for the Random Input – for making creative leaps
problem. Then the tool generates ideas in correlation with Concept Fan – used for widening the search for
this words by using the power of internet, Google Product solutions
(Froogle) and Google Sets. Usage of the software in the Reframing Matrix - Looking at problems from
Faculty Of Electrical Engineering and Information different perspectives and many others.
Technologies, Computer Science Department, Skopje. One of the mentioned creativity tools that are subject
This Web Tool For Brainstorming can be used in wide of our interest are Brainstorming and Random Input
spectra of areas for personal creativity improvement, techniques. They are an excellent way of developing
company usage and for fun. many creative solutions to a problem. Brainstorming
works by focusing on a problem, and then coming up with
1. INTRODUCTION very many radical solutions to it. Ideas should be as broad
and odd as possible, and should be developed as fast as
Creativity is a mental and social process involving the can. Random Input [2] is a lateral thinking tool which is
generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations very useful when you need fresh ideas or new
of the creative mind between existing ideas or concepts perspectives during problem solving.
[1]. An alternative conception of creativeness is that it is There are two Google services that are very useful to
simply the act of making something new. be utilized in our work. First one is Google Products [17]
From a scientific point of view, the products of which generates random words, noun of real existing
creative thought, sometimes referred to as divergent object, and the idea here is that noun to be used as random
thought, are usually considered to have both originality input which will force you to think of new ideas that you
and appropriateness. wouldn't normally think of. The second one is Google
Although intuitively a simple phenomenon, it is in fact Sets [13] service which is a tool that fleshes out “sets,” or
quite complex. It has been studied from the perspectives lists of things of the same kind [3].
of behavioral psychology, social psychology, This area is very interesting for many scientists and
psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, enthusiasts. They have spent time for developing useful
philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, creativity support software that uses similar concepts as
and management, among others. The studies have covered those described before. For example ParaMind
everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even Brainstorming Software [4] is one kind of creativity
artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, support tool. This tool generates idea combinations that
there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition are directly related to the idea that is typed on the user
of creativity. And unlike many phenomena in psychology, interface screen. It works on subjects from different areas
there is no standardized measurement technique. such as writing, law, marketing and scientific inventions.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the ambiguity and The user writes the sentence and selects words from the
multi-dimensional nature of creativity, entire industries sentence to expand generation of new text. This tool uses
have been spawned from the pursuit of creative ideas and database of one-thousand related word categories and new
the development of creativity techniques. words can be added. This tool is interesting but is limited
Because scientific discoveries and engineering from perspective of poor words database. Also users of
innovation produce broad benefits, improved tools that different platforms such as Mac OSX, Linux, and
advance individual, group, and social creativity are Windows need separate installation.
becoming very important in our days [18]. Brainstorm and Affinity Diagram Tool [5] is another
There are several different tools for creativity [2] that software tool developed by PathMaker. It is used for
can help us to become intensely creative. They will help brainstorming and combining ideas. This diagramming
us both solve problems and spot opportunities that might software tool combines two important creative processes
otherwise miss. Following techniques are known as in a split window. The brainstorm tool permits recording
creativity tools: of creative ideas that answer a central question. The
software is used to record the ideas which are editable, as

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are the central question. Also affinity set headers are it to the next stage. Therefore, group brainstorming tends
editable, collapsible and expandable. The main issue is to develop ideas in more depth than individual
that there is no way for generating new idea from some brainstorming. Brainstorming in a group can be risky for
kind of database or source. There is no way to make individuals. Strange and often very valuable suggestions
random input of some word that is going to develop may appear stupid at first sight. Because of such, session
brainstorming process additionally, but all ideas came leader is needed to chair sessions tightly so that
from the user that only writes down them and combines uncreative people do not crush these ideas and leave
them in similar groups. group members feeling humiliated.
The Solutions Genie [6] is brainstorming tool To run a group brainstorming session effectively,
developed by DSS Systems & Software Technologies following steps are needed:
Ltd. It uses the Electronic/Network Brainstorming aspect 1. Define the problem for solving clearly, and lay out
for generating ideas and can be used in organizations to any criteria to be met.
help continuous quality and process improvement. 2. Keep the session focused on the problem.
The Brainstorming Toolbox [7] is developed from 3. Ensure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas
Infinite Innovations Ltd. Brainstorming Toolbox is a during the session.
desktop application that incorporates several creativity 4. Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude
tools such as: random word, random picture, challenge among members of the group. Try to get everyone
facts, false rules, SCAMPER. It is used for brainstorming, to contribute and develop ideas, including the
creative thinking, lateral thinking, creativity and problem quietest members of the group.
solving. 5. Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage
Other software tools that incorporate visual techniques them to come up with as many ideas as possible,
for brainstorming called mind mapping allows you to from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical
brainstorm and visualize ideas. Mind mapping helps you ones.
organize complex ideas or processes to increase 6. Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too
understanding, plan more efficiently and turn ideas into long.
action faster. These tools are IdeaFisher [8], 7. Encourage people to develop other people’s ideas,
ConceptDraw [9], SmartDraw [10], MatchWare[11]. or to use other ideas to create new ones.
8. Appoint one person to note down ideas that come
2. BRAINSTORMING AND RANDOM INPUT out of the session which should be studied and
evaluated after the session.
Brainstorming is a process designed to obtain the
maximum number of ideas relating to a specific area of Random Input [2] is a technique for linking another
interest. Brainstorming can be an effective way to thinking pattern into the one we are using. Along with this
generate lots of ideas on a specific issue and then new pattern comes all the experience that thinker has
determine which idea – or ideas – is the best solution. At connected to it.
the conclusion of the brainstorming process, ideas are To use Random Input, a random noun from either a
categorized and ranked for follow-on action. It's a process dictionary or a pre-prepared word list is needed to be
of discovery where you start with a kernel of an idea and selected. It often helps if the noun is something that can
then expand. be seen or touched (e.g. “helicopter”, “dog”) rather than a
During brainstorming sessions there should be no concept (e.g. “fairness”). This noun is used as the starting
criticism of ideas. The thinker is trying to open point for brainstorming on the problem.
possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the If good word is chosen, then a range of new ideas and
limits of the problem. Judgments or analysis at this stage concepts will be added to the brainstorming, while some
will stunt idea generation. The thinker should only will be useless.
evaluate ideas after a brainstorming session has finished. Example: Imagine that we are thinking about the
There are two kinds of traditional brainstorming: problem of reducing car pollution. So far in thinking
individual and group brainstorming through the problem we have considered all the
Individual brainstorming [2] is performed when single conventional solutions of catalytic conversion and clean
person brainstorms on his own; he will tend to produce a fuels.
wider range of ideas than group brainstorming because he Selecting a random noun from the titles of the books
has not to worry about other people’s egos or opinions, in a bookcase we might see the word “Plants”.
and so can be more freely creative. However he could not Brainstorming from this we could generate a number of
develop ideas as effectively because he doesn’t have the new ideas:
experience of the group to help him. One major benefit 1. Plant trees on the side of roads to convert CO2 back
[12] is that you don't have to worry about other people into oxygen.
judging your ideas as they're created. You're free to go 2. Similarly, pass exhaust gases through a soup of algae
wherever your brain takes you as you utilize the to convert CO2 back into oxygen. Perhaps this is how
brainstorming technique to generate ideas. an “air scrubber” in a space crafts works?
Group brainstorming [2] can be very effective as it 3. Put sulfur-metabolizing bacteria into an exhaust gas
uses the experience and creativity of all members of the processor to clean up exhaust gases. Would nitrogen
group. When individual members reach their limit on an compounds fertilize these bacteria?
idea, another member's creativity and experience can take

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4. Another meaning of “Plant” is factory. Perhaps more related and more accurate results.” Google decided
exhaust gases could be collected in a container, and to make Google Sets available as a separate tool because
sent to a special plant to be cleaned? Perhaps we could it “stood alone on its own and was kind of interesting.”
off-load these gases at the same time as we fill up with
fuel?
4. USED TECHNOLOGY
These ideas are very raw. Some may be wrong or
impractical. One of them might be original and the basis The Web Tool for Brainstorming (WTB) is designed
of some useful development. and developed as web application that uses Silverlight 2.0
[14] and therefore it looks like desktop application. The
The Random Input is often used to initiate application user interface is thankfully to the
Brainstorming session, and because of that we have opportunities given and represented by the Silverlight
developed software tool that combines these two which is Rich Internet Application standard.
techniques. The objects that are displayed within the web page are
designed with Blend Expression 2.0 [15], which is
3. GOOGLE SETS SERVICE important and necessary helping tool for designing
graphical objects for this architecture. All those graphical
Google Sets [13] is a large-scale clustering algorithm objects have declarative representation with XAML
that uses many millions of data instances extracted from structure.
web data. More specifically, it invites users to enter a few Anything that is created or implemented in XAML
items that all fall into a certain category. It then tries to can be expressed using a more traditional .NET language,
determine what the category is and generate a list of more such as C# or Visual Basic.NET. However, a key aspect
items that belong in that category. of the technology is the reduced complexity needed for
The Google Sets page contains blank lines for tools to process XAML, because it is based on XML. As a
entering items and two options for getting result, “Long result, a variety of products are emerging, particularly in
Set” and “Short Set (15 items or fewer)”. “Long Set” the WPF - Windows Presentation Foundation space,
option is for a list that is as comprehensive as possible but which create XAML-based applications. As XAML is
likely to include some items that are weakly related or simply based on XML, developers and designers are able
seemingly unrelated to the others. “Short Set” option is to share and edit content freely amongst them without
for a list that is more focused and less likely to contain requiring compilation. The XAML based coding is
outliers, though not necessarily free of them. Few strongly linked to the .NET Framework 3.5 [16]
examples are following, which are better than descriptions technologies.
at communicating Google Sets’ purpose, behavior, and The XAML code produces the look and representation
peculiarities. First is a straightforward query, one whose of the graphic object that is used in the user interface of
input is exactly what Google Sets requests: “a few items the WTB, presented on Figure 1.
from a set of things.”

Example 1
User Input: fork, stove, blender
Google Sets Output: fork, stove, blender, microwave,
refrigerator, and other things that are found in kitchens
Example 2
User Input: kitchens Figure 1 - WTB object represented by XAML
Google Sets Output: kitchens, bathrooms, home offices,
laundry rooms, and (mostly) other spaces found in homes Furthermore in the application is used web service that
communicates with the graphic interface. This web
As examples 1 and 2 show, Google Sets treats inputs in service is the heart of the application because it is
only one way: as members of a set. So, when the inputs responsible for generating ideas.
are things that are found in kitchens, the outputs are more
things that are found in kitchens. The input “kitchens,” on 5. WEB TOOL FOR BRAINSTORMING
the other hand, does not lead to a list of things found in
kitchens. Rather, it causes Google Sets to generate items The process for creating ideas starts with the root
that belong in the same category as kitchens, namely, node which is actually presented in the user interface
other rooms found in homes. In other words, the only way drawing board when the tool is started. The main board is
to get items that belong in a certain category is to list a consisted of main node which represents problem
few items in that category, not to name or describe the definition node. This node has menu around itself and
category. This distinction explains why inputs reappear in contains buttons for performing actions. Also on the right
the output. side of the board there is navigation menu for moving the
Even though Google Sets [3] is an imperfect and node network to all directions, zoom in/out and
idiosyncratic tool, it has impressive associative powers. positioning to the starting point. The main WTB board is
The technology behind Google Sets is also used to presented on Figure 2.
improve the regular Google search engine, “to get you

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populating the node properties such as name, content and
asset value.
The automatically node adding is generating ideas
which are associated with the problem represented by the
selected node. We have developed two aspects of
automatic generating ideas, getting random word from
Google Products and getting similar category words from
Google Sets. Generating of new ideas is with button
clicking from the menu surrounding the node. The tool
takes the word/words from the node name and sends
it/them to the Google Sets service, then the service
generates result set and the ideas are drawing as nodes on
the drawing board. The drawn node network has “flower”
representation.
If generated ideas are not interesting in the process of
Figure 2 - WTB Board brainstorming and the creativity process is somehow
blocked then Random Input needs to be initiated by
The menu buttons allow adding new idea manually, invoking random words from the Google Products. It
generating ideas automatically, deleting node, and contains nouns of physical products. These nouns are
focusing the node. The main node and the idea node are used as starting point for generating ideas for the defined
presented on Figure 3 where can be seen the surrounding problem on the central node. Google products or
menu for these separate nodes. popularly known Froogle gives 25 random product
names. Then randomly selecting two or three of them are
given as input array to Google Sets which continues the
list of the given ideas which some of them are good or
neither of them are good and can be deleted and initiating
new brainstorming session is required.
The idea nodes are branched with sub-nodes. Every
added node is linked with its parent node. The tool
enables repositioning of every node, so it allows the
Figure 3 - Starting and idea nodes
thinker to make own structure of the nodes. On Figure 5 is
presented idea generation from already defined idea node.
The WTB has an interface for updating the node
When some of the nodes are moving on the board by the
properties. The node has Name, Type, Content and Asset
user, all of his children are moving too, except those
value properties. The name field is for writing word or
nodes that have children nodes. This is done because of
word combination. This name is starting point of
uniform positioning when large network of nodes is
brainstorming process. The type is read only and gives
generated.
information if the node is root problem or idea node. The
content is for writing additional information for the node
while brainstorming. The asset value is for the idea node
and represents field for giving value to the idea in the
whole network of ideas. The updating interface is shown
for every selected node from the drawing board, presented
on Figure 4.

Figure 5 – Visual representation from automatic idea


Figure 4 - Node properties updating generation
For the defined problem this tool enables adding new Example:
node manually or automatically. If car pollution problem is investigated with WTB
The manual adding is creating new node that then in the central node the name of the problem is
represents new idea and is defined from the user by written. This words combination is given as input array to

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Google Sets and is used to be extended. The generated disinfection, basic chemistry, haz mat,
array of new words is displayed as new nodes that are global warming, air pollution, noise
connected to the root node, in this case the „car pollution” pollution
node. The user also can add his new idea by adding new
node, or can delete the node that has no reason to be in the These generated ideas are good starting point for thinking
nodes network. These results are shown by the WTB used and evaluating the good ones and removing the most
on the „car pollution” problem, presented on Figure 6: irrational one. On Figure 8 is presented brainstorming
session extended to several nodes and the results are:

Figure 6 - Car pollution problem

The generated node results are: Figure 8 - Extended ideas


- car pollution, land pollution, neighborhood
noise, smoke, air quality, ozone pollution We are going to remove all nodes from the network
that we think are inappropriate. All other generated nodes
If we extend the investigation on the generated nodes and or manually added (not generated automatically) can be
start again generating new ideas from the node “ozone additionally updated with value that represents the metric
pollution” we are getting this result, presented on Figure which is going to be one of the factors for making
7: decision, the node to stay or remove it from the nodes
network. On Figure 9 is presented idea node properties
with asset value set to 70 meaning that this ideas will
participate in the decision making with that value.

Figure 9 - Evaluating node

After the brainstorming session is finished the user


can save the whole project in XML file, and he can send
this file with e-mail to his collaboration partner. This
XML representation is displayed on Figure 10. This
second user can open the web page and import the
Figure 7 - Result of continuous idea generation received XML file. Then the whole structure with nodes
and ideas generated as the original one are going to be
The nodes are: drawn on the display. After that the brainstorming can be
- noise pollution, axair climate, soot pollution, continued by other user.
world map, toxic, particle pollution, ozone

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[4] ParaMind Brainstorming Software -Idea Creation
Technology http://www.paramind.net/ (accessed
10.01.2009)
[5] Brainstorm and Affinity Diagram Tool,
http://www.skymark.com/pathmaker/tour/brain.asp?gclid
=CIOd9NKeopgCFQpatAodzVV5mQ (accessed
10.01.2009)
[6] Solution Genie,
http://www.brainstormingdss.com/site/bsnet.html
(accessed 10.01.2009)
[7] Brainstorming Toolbox,
http://www.infinn.com/toolbox.html (accessed
10.01.2009)
[8] Idea Fisher,
Figure 10 - XML representation of the nodes network
http://www.thoughtoffice.com/?page_id=148
In the future the WTB is planned to be reworked as (accessed 15.01.2009)
multiuser system. This means that the application will [9] ConceptDraw,
have system for registering users and every user could http://www.conceptdraw.com/en/products/mindmap/main
login to the WTB in order to perform brainstorming .php?utm_source=Trial&utm_medium=About&utm_term
session. The user could invite other users to continue the =en-win&utm_content=6&utm_campaign=MM (accessed
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[10] SmartDraw,
6. CONCLUSION http://www.smartdraw.com/downloads/index.htm?WT.svl
=link01 (accessed 10.01.2009)
In this paper we present web tool for brainstorming
[11] MatchWare,
which represents one kind of creativity support tool. We
http://www.matchware.com/EN/products/openmind/defau
have covered the brainstorming and random input as
lt.htm (accessed 10.01.2009)
techniques for creativity and utilizing the Google
Products and Google Sets as services for generating ideas. [12] Jason R. Rich, Brain Storm: Tap into Your Creativity
The Brainstorming is a process designed to obtain the to Generate Awesome Ideas and Remarkable Results,
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linking another thinking pattern into the one we are using.
15.01.2009)
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thinker has connected to it. Google Products at its first [15] Microsoft Expression Blend,
page gives 25 random product names that are nouns http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?Famil
representing physical products. These nouns are used as yId=5FF08106-B9F4-43CD-ABAD-
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[17] Google Products, http://labs.google.com/products
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