I Am Not A Microwave

"I am not a microwave," said R&B singer Jill Scott when asked recently about why it has taken her several years to release a follow-up album to her smash debut.

Last time I checked none of us individually looks like a microwave, and while I know of some organizations with fast-track innovation processes in place, they aren't microwaves either.

Yet so many individuals and organizations want both instant output and instant results. Yes, it is important to acknowledge that in some industries and with some efforts being first to market can create a perhaps insurmountable advantage. But in other cases, we're better served with the Lance Armstrong Tour de France approach: don't let the pack break away, remain among the leaders, and leverage your strengths on the part of the journey where either (1) you clearly excel, or (2) you can use superior effort to exploit others' vulnerabilities.

And besides, when you think about the effect microwaves have on food, it's not all good news.

* They don't heat items evenly so you often have both hot and cold spots.
* Times for heating vary based on any number of variables and are often unpredictable.
* The heat generated seems to dissipate quickly and what's left is often hard or unappetizing.
* The dish often is scalding to the touch when you try to remove it.

When we try to rush results in our own efforts, we're likely to experience many of these same microwave side effects. Push for too much too soon, and the "heat" generated may not be sustainable for the long haul. Force people to produce at too accelerated a pace, and they may become too "hot" to handle in interpersonal interactions.

I used to microwave my hot water for tea or coffee until a close friend commented on the absurdity of that so-called timesaver. Now I use the old-fashioned approach of heating water in a teakettle. It takes only slightly longer, but the ritual of waiting for the kettle to boil allows me time to think and reflect about any number of things. Other people have "shower ideas;" I have "teapot ideas."

The point is that we are not microwaves, and we would be well-served to stop trying to become them. Yes, we need to produce and we often need to produce quickly, but having the patience to wait for the water to boil might be the long-term key to generating sustainable results.