My Problem

I had a burning desire to motivate my staff into generating ideas that would RADICALLY improve my department and support the goals and mission of our agency. From my experience, in a typical mind mapping session, usually many ideas are developed, some innovative, perhaps, but rarely “Radical.” I wanted to change that paradigm from an idea, which could make a difference to blowing the doors off the walls.

Sometime ago, I had the unfortunate pleasure of listening to someone bloviate to the point of agnosia about a mindless, self-serving topic. Hindsight being 20/20, I believe in retrospect I would rather have listened to someone scratch his or her fingernails on a chalkboard than experience that again. The next day while driving to work a thought came to mind, out of which I created with I call Withrow’s Axiom #127. Which States:


My Solution

Generally, this type of harangue rears its ugly head when people choose to discuss politics or religion; however, I realized this axiom was precisely what I was after. I wanted the broad bold strokes it offered, not of wasted air but of frenzied meteoric ideas. Therefore, I set out to devise a way to accomplish this dream, which spawned me to develop what I call the Synaptic Twaddle Exercise. I have had great success using this program and following is how I implement it.

Synaptic Twaddle Exercise

Step 1      

Assemble you creative thought leaders and explain the objective that you are trying to achieve. Elucidate that you are concerned about verbs not nouns during the exercise, without this framework, I have beheld people offer up wish list ideas, or product pitches.

An example regarding nouns and verbs that I like to use is, “I want to improve communication!” This is an example of a verb, some action that I would like to change to realize a goal. Without my framework, I have heard ideas such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Google Gmail, Blogs, Chat, etc. These would be example of nouns; they are examples of products or product service types.  I am not concerned about products such as iPads, tablets, computers; my focus is the task I would like to accomplish. Remember I want the verb, what I want to accomplish, later I can find a product or service to accomplish the task.

Step 2  

Next is turn your staff loose with your favorite mind mapping software, any off the wall idea is to be accepted. Inspire them to go crazy brainstorming take away all boundaries, such as time and resources, celebrate and have fun with it. Emphasize, stress and almost demand crazy ideas only. During this step, absolutely no ideas are to be rejected or evaluated based on its merits. Evaluating on the fly inhibits the creative process.

Step 3      

Once you believe you have sufficiently concluded that enough ideas have been generated and creative process is grinding to a halt you end the mapping session. Generally, I like to wait a few days or a week before I call the team back together to discuss and evaluate the ideas. I have found the time away, gives minds the time to percolate and usually something good comes from this.

Step 4

Perform group analysis, come to a consensus in the direction and plan a course of action. Step four seems simple, but this is where the real work begins.


Now I will share an example utilizing the education industry as the backdrop.

Topic Improve the Quality of the Education Process



I Immediately gravitate to Shoot Spit Balls; it is unique and sounds like a lot of fun. I can think of lessons revolving around this and a map would look something like this.


I can envision this being a school wide project, each content area involved, Math, Science, Language Arts, Career and Technical Education, and Social Studies. The Arts department can develop a video about the project, band and chorus would create the sound track, and the coaches setup the gym as the stage for the culmination of the project. I suppose you could take your results and challenge the students to see “Who is faster than a spit ball.” Can you imagine the party like atmosphere in the Gym that day? No doubt, the learning during the study and build up to the final showcase day would be spectacular.

Big Question??????????  Are you Bold enough to take on this adventure?