Why I Moved Your Cheese is More Important Than Ever

  • November 21, 2017

Harvard Business School professor Deepak Malhotra thought that Spencer Johnson's business bestseller Who Moved My Cheese?  made some good points about the need to anticipate and adapt to change, but he also took issue with the book’s core message: accept that change is inevitable and beyond your control, don’t waste your time wondering why things are the way they are, keep your head down and start chasing after more cheese.

So he wrote I Moved Your Cheese, which offers an altogether different perspective-one that challenges the notion that we are simply mice in a maze, subject to the designs of others and destined to chase blindly after cheese. 

Here are the five compelling reasons he felt he had to write this book: 

# 1: Because some of the greatest barriers to success are internal. 
In the face of established practices, traditional ideas, scarce resources and the powerful demands or expectations of others, we often underestimate our ability to control our own destiny and overcome the constraints we face -- or think we face. 

# 2: Because we need more people who will challenge the old way of doing things.
We need to think twice before telling would-be innovators, problem solvers, entrepreneurs, and leaders that instead of wasting their time wondering why things are the way they are, they should simply accept their world as given. 

Reason # 3: Because what is impossible to control today, may be possible to control tomorrow.
Even in situations where things are beyond our control, we should do more than blindly accept our fate. We should still seek to understand why the change was forced on us, how we might exert greater control over our lives or business in the future, and what it would take to escape the kinds of mazes in which we are always subject the designs of others. 

Reason # 4: Because we're often unaware that we are in the maze. 
Too often we are blindly chasing after the cheese, and not stopping to think whether the goals we are chasing are the correct ones. This is as true for students who are picking a major, as it is for graduates picking a career, or mid-career folks working towards the next promotion. 

Reason #5: Because intellect and intent are often not enough. 
For the most difficult problems we face in business and in life, being smart, hard-working and well-intentioned is not sufficient. We need to challenge longstanding assumptions, see the old in new ways, and be willing to chart our own, unique course towards success. 

Deepak Malhotra is the Eli Goldston Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. His teaching, research and advisory work is focused on negotiation, deal-making and conflict resolution.

His most recent book, Negotiating the Impossible, focuses on three broad approaches for breaking deadlocks and resolving conflicts, even when success seems unfeasible.

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