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Send Your Creativity Through the Roof With the Latest Apps

By Jaimy Ford for America's Backbone Weekly

To be successful, you must be creative. When we talk about "creative types," we are not only referring to the Bob Ross wannabees, crafty DIYers or high-tech graphic designers out there. We are talking about everyday small-business owners and entrepreneurs just like yourself who need to be creative in order to compete and innovate.

For years now, research has indicated that Americans are experiencing a sharp decline in creativity. That is undoubtedly hurting our abilities to problem solve and generate new ideas. If you want to do well in business, buck that trend and actively strengthen your creativity. While it might seem counterintuitive, technology can make it possible for you to tap into and expand your creativity. Here's how:

Capture Your Ideas

Ideas come to you at the strangest times. Sometimes the ideas are harebrained; other times they are promising but you forget them before you have a chance to pursue them.



Free apps such as Evernote and Somnote make it easy to record your ideas and share them with your team anytime, anywhere.

Brainstorm With Employees

The days of scribbling notes on a whiteboard or giant notepad are over. New apps are making it possible to collaborate in real-time using sophisticated presentations.

For example, MindMeister allows you to brainstorm, create mind maps, plan projects and develop strategies online. With the free mobile apps for iOS and Android, stakeholders can contribute from multiple locations. MindMeister offers a free basic version, with packages starting at $36 for a six-month period.

SpiderScribe is an online brainstorming and mind-mapping tool that allows you to flesh out your ideas by organizing and collecting notes, files, calendar events and more in free-form maps. Teams can collaborate from anywhere because the maps are stored in the cloud. The Personal version is free, and packages start at $5 per month.

Sketch

Doodling sparks creativity, but you don't have to be an artist to turn your ideas into images with Paper by 53. With the free iPad app, you can sketch product ideas, charts, floor plans, strategies and more. In addition, you gain access to Mix, an open platform where you can view and remix ideas from others, so you will never have to start a sketch from scratch.

For Android tablet users, Bamboo Paper is a similar free app that allows you take notes, sketch, edit, provide feedback and share content.

Change Your Thought Patterns

The Creative Whack Pack for iOS ($2) offers you 84 illustrated strategies that contain stories, examples and questions that force you to break free of your habitual thought patterns.

IDEA CARD, free on Android, presents you with 60 cards of methods, attitudes and encouragements that force you to open your mind and expand your thoughts.

Developing the ability to problem solve, flesh out your ideas, brainstorm and collaborate is crucial if you want to remain competitive as a small-business owner. Invest in the future of your business by becoming more creative—and use technology to make the process less daunting for you and your employees.

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Jaimy Ford is a professional business writer withnearly a decade's worth of experience developing newsletters, blogs, e-letters,training tools and webinars for business professionals. She contributes to bothThe Intuit Small Business Blog and Docstoc.com. She also serves as editor-in-chief of SalesMastery, a digital magazine writtenspecifically for sales professionals.
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