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A cheesy way to inspire change

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Who Moved My Cheese?, a simple parable about change, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is now the best-selling business book of all time.

What exactly is it about this slim volume that a basic reader can swallow in 45 minutes?

1. It’s about change, the thing we fear most. Two people and two mice suddenly find themselves without their normal ration of cheese, and they respond very differently.

2. It’s about adapting to change. The mice go looking for new cheese and score some, while the people don’t. At first. Eventually even the humans figure out they need to break out of their habits or die.

3. It’s about resisting change. One of the humans yells, “Who moved my cheese?” and refuses to accept reality.

Critics despise the book as obvious and insulting, especially when forced upon workers even as they are being laid off, which suggests that this year might be especially brisk for sales.

Such critics, including Columbia business professor Eric Abrahamson, mock the one-size-fits-all approach and point out that too much change—layoffs, incessant restructuring and bailouts—reflects not a change in paradigm but chaos created by incompetent managers.

Still, the little book endures. CEOs, workers, entrepreneurs and business experts alike hail it as a clear way to understand why the ground is moving under us.

Meanwhile, its author, physician Spencer Johnson—who trained at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School and who has written 10 other best-selling business books—happily acknowledges that his masterwork is simple. That one, deep chord has sold 22 million copies of Who Moved My Cheese?

— Adapted from “Why is Cheese the best seller of all time?” Andrea Sachs, Time. 

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