The Microwave as a Metaphor for Organizational Learning

The oven is the cornerstone of the kitchen, been around forever. Sure it’s changed its look and fuel over the centuries but the bottom line is the oven is big; it’s designed to cook large amounts, and over a longer period time. Think holiday dinners. It’s really an event kind of appliance.

Me, I’m a free standing microwave guy.

Microwaves aren’t ideal for me to cook say a pot roast but for smaller meals and tid-bits that give you just what you need, when you need it – the microwave is perfect!

Microwave ovens heat food quickly, leaving me more time to do what I need to do – like the honey-do list the “boss” gives me.

I have a free standing microwave- When we were remodeling our kitchen last year we had to keep ours in the living room. Place it anywhere in the house and it does the job – why limit yourself to the kitchen for cooking; it’s mobile!

A microwave is not a threat to replace the oven. We still need the oven for the big stuff like a Thanksgiving dinner. You must have an oven for that event…Turkey, pies, rolls, etc. But the microwave (often used during these events but typically given little credit) is used to defrost food in preparation for the event and also used to cook the gravy, green bean casserole, and the pumpkin soup – critical for a successful meal. Then it is called upon after to reheat many of these items in short order while you watch the Detroit Lions attempt to play football.

I like metaphors and the “microwave” is a useful one for me to use when explaining my beliefs about organizational learning.


Organizational learning must:
• be small (nibbles not full courses)
• be delivered quickly so workers can have more time to do what they are paid to do (minutes not hours)
• happen more where and when needed, not limited to the kitchen ….err I mean training room (on the move not at the table)
• take place before and after an event (defrost and reheat)

I think there is something Social and Informal here too…

One thought on “The Microwave as a Metaphor for Organizational Learning

  1. Well said! I'll defrost and reheat this idea in a meeting tomorrow with a client that "thinks" it wants me to deliver a training series. I plan to get them thinking about learner-developed content and ongoing peer-teaching. Thanks for the inspiration!

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