There is often a need to record the notes from a brainstorming session. Haven’t had the pleasure of doing one before? I’ll explain.
What Happens in a Brainstorming Session
If your organization hasn’t done a brainstorming session before, it’s essentially an open-ended meeting where ideas around a particular topic or problem are dreamt up and recorded. There is usually a facilitator to keep the meeting going, and to remind participations that there are no bad ideas. All ideas are accepted and no idea is judged or evaluated during these meetings. The facilitator may clarify, but that’s about it. Idea evaluation happens later.
The Problems Around Brainstorming Sessions
The notes from these sessions are typically transcribed and/or photographed. Then they are stored on an internal repository or simply emailed to each other.
Recording these sessions is just the first step too. After that, someone has to organize the information so it can be properly evaluated later. It also needs to be retrievable. Since brainstorms aren’t generating formal product specifications, some teams aren’t sure where to store these notes. As a result, sometimes they get lost in an abandoned email thread or text document on someone’s desktop.
The tools of choice? Some kind of text editor on the laptop, like an email client, online wiki page, or word processor. For photos, a smartphone with a camera or digital point-and-shoot are usually used. If the photographer forgets to share the photos, however, the team may forget and they are never seen again.
Seems like an awful wide range of tools and hurdles for such a seemingly simple task, huh?
A Potential Solution
So how about an app that allows participants to record notes in any media they choose – be it text, photograph, video, or audio? This app could be both a mobile and web app. Notes taken in one app would show up in all of the others in real-time. One participant could be typing in the ideas while another is taking photos of the session. A third could be recording audio or video as well. It would be like a collaborative, real-time Evernote.
The text interface would look like Google Wave (GOOG) – which basically is a rich-text, real-time, multi-user editor. Several participants could be adding notes all at the same time, while photos and other media appear as they are recorded. The media assets could be annotated and tagged for better organization as well.
All of this would be recorded in a single destination. Everyone would know where to look if they wanted to dig up some idea that was passed around. Since note taking happens in real time, the chance of someone forgetting to share a note is decreased as well.
Here’s another way to envision this product. You’re in a brainstorming session as a participant. You have your iPad (AAPL) out to jot down some notes. A coworker is taking photos with her iPhone of all the diagrams on the whiteboard. Each time she uploads one, you view it on your iPad and add some notes to it for context.
The facilitator is recording the audio for this session on his Nexus S sitting on the conference table. Another participant is on her laptop, with several tabs open in Chrome, adding URLs of articles mentioned in this meeting too.
Meanwhile, a coworker who’s sick at home is following along on the web app, watching the updates occur as they occur. He’s conferenced in via Skype. (I’m not sure this should be a feature of this app too, but who knows?) This way, he can see, hear, and even participate in the brainstorm.
All of the notes taken would be stored within the app and accessible at any time. Any note or media file could be emailed. Various levels of permissions could be applied as well. These session notes could be shared with other departments as a jump-off point for further brainstorms.
A Potential Business Model
And how would this service make money? By charging for storage. You could go with a freemium model and offer one brainstorming session free for 30 days. That ought to give users enough of a taste to purchase the premium plan. Or, forget freemium and just charge per session per month.
Potential Initial Target Market Segments
Creative agencies and technology startups could make a suitable beachhead segment to pursue first. They tend to hold such brainstorming sessions more often than other organizations. Once you’ve captured that niche, you can expand to other audiences.
And for future features? Why not hold a brainstorming session – using this tool, of course! What better way to improve your product than by using it yourself? The ideas you generate may be invaluable, and being able to record them in any form may spark other product ideas too.