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Book Review: Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson

· book review,Change,Behaviour

I have to say that this was a pleasant and easy read compared to many of the enlightening and informative change books that are popular in business and personal development. With a miniscule 95 pages of size 12 text it took me around an hour to read this cover to cover whilst on my travels. It is also written in accessible language meaning it could easily be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

Who moved my cheese, spencer johnson, kenneth blanchard, business book, dealing with change

What's Inside

The book comes with a short introduction, the main story and a short discussion piece after to help readers digest and apply the main learnings. The bulk of the book is dedicated to a narrative based around four characters who experience the same life changing circumstances… their cheese is moved! Whilst this seems silly and playful, it actually acts as a simple and accessible metaphor for all sorts of significant life changes that can occur - meaning our goals and dreams (cheese) of old are no longer suitable and new cheese has to be pursued.

If you do not change, you can become extinct

The Characters

What makes the book work so well is looking at the approach the four characters take when a significant life change occurs. There are only four characters; two mice called Sniff and Scurry, and two humans called Haw and Hem. Their names cleverly allude to the type of behaviours they often display when faced with change.

I will not uncover the plot by revealing the traits of all these characters, but what I can say is that they provide a delightfully simple analogy for the range of behaviours most people exhibit – and because these traits are encapsulated in such harmless characters it becomes easier to admit to yourself which behaviours you are most likely to engage in when faced with real life change. It allows you to discuss in a group: “So, are we a Sniff, Scurry, Haw or Hem?”

The Messages of the Book

As the narrative follows the characters on their journey for new cheese, the revelations made along the way become scribed on the walls of the maze of life. This ‘Handwriting On The Wall’ is then summarised nicely at the end to create a key list of learning. Each of these messages is cheese related but is easy to translate into everyday language. The discussion extract in the back of the book also explains the messages nicely with real life examples just in case all the cheese analogies get a bit much for you.

When you see that you can find and enjoy new cheese, you change course

My Take Home Point

I would like to think that I am someone who is more open to change than most (Probably a Scurry, but you’ll have to read the book to fully understand the character). As such this book was no great revelation to me. However, it did summarise in a very playful way the importance of being open to change and the range of behaviours other people can exhibit. For me, this book has reminded me that others tackle change in different ways and that I need to be mindful of how members of my team, family and community are likely to process change – that way I can help them all to find new cheese by the means that suits their character best.

The very last thought from the book that I want to leave you with is the final ‘Handwriting On The Wall’

“They keep moving the cheese!”

Changes to your goals will always be around the corner. Don’t let a love of or dependency on your current dreams stop you from seeing what else is out there. Finding new passions and sources of happiness is an adventure in itself so always be ready to move when the ‘cheese’ does.

Image credit: Arbyreed, 2007

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