Recently, everyone where I work was given a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. If you read the reviews (some 1400 of them) on Amazon.com you’ll find that opinions are quite varied. A third love it, a third hate it and the rest are somewhere in-between. The controversy stems in part from how simple and childish the parable sounds. On the one hand, such a simple parable leaves out many issues that make life complicated, on the other hand, it allows the author to really nail one of the biggest issues concerning change — and that’s fear of change.
Changes can come in many different ways. Some changes happen over night as with a sudden accident. Other changes come at us like a slow moving glacier. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, but it may also be a long time before you actually have to move and get out of its way. Change doesn’t even have to be forced on us, we can be the initiators ourselves.
Because so many things change around us, we often are forced to change — to adapt or be run over. Sometimes, we resent the fact that things are changing and wish we could keep things the way we are comfortable with. Sometimes change scares us because we feel we are being shoved over a cliff and have no control.
But change is also good. We love receiving an upward change in our salary (a raise). We love falling in love, having a child, or seeing that child get married. We love promotions, challenges and accomplishments — even though all those things mean we must rise to the occasion and face the changes that are involved.
Interestingly, one of the reviewers on Amazon said that the most useful tidbit from the book was this, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Indeed, that is the key to handling change well. Whenever we can see where change will take us, whenever we can see that is a place we would really like to get to, then we will endure whatever it takes to get there — including the uncomfort of change itself.
One of the most amazing things about business is how poorly so many companies have been at seeing the big changes coming down the road. IBM failed to see the impact PC’s would have on their computer business. Encyclopedia companies failed to see how CD-ROM’s and then the Internet would change their world. The news media has failed to see how cable TV and then the Internet would change their business.
We get so good at what we do, that we can’t imagine a better way of doing it. Meanwhile, young college dropouts see new technology and can’t help but imagine a better world, even when they have no idea how hard it will be to make that world viable.
In either case, the key is to envision a future that we can’t see right now — whether in our personal lives, in our social groups, or in business. When we choose to imagine what can be, we begin to let go of our fears of losing what has been. Better still, when we imagine things we are passionate about, then we will not only change because we have to, we will change because we want to.
Vision pushes us to change. Vision is best created through harnessing our passions. Vision is carried out by developing the skills we need to accomplish it.
Or as it says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV).
What do you think?