Spencer Johnson wrote Who Moved my Cheese in 1998. It’s a classical non-fiction read on organizational change. It was written before the dot com bubble, Y2K, and the fallout of the economy, and yet the message still holds true.
The book is a parable about two little mice and two little people. All four characters had nice lives full of cheese and leisure, but the mice handled their day to day functions differently than the little people. The mice never did become complacent, whereas the little people put away their running shoes and became lazy. Sure enough, the cheese was mysteriously moved. The mice scurried off looking for the new location. The little people at waiting. One little person eventually learns to adapt to change and notes his learning a long the way.
Even though the story is about mice and little people, the message is still true today. People have to adapt to change and learn to enjoy the ride.
I have seen the struggle with change adaptation in the teaching profession. Teachers have endured several waves of change, but the one that I can related to the most is the influx of technology into public education.
Teachers have said to me things like, “I’m not going to bother. By the time I learn this, it’ll be old news and I’ll have to learn something else” or “What’s wrong with overhead transparencies? They’ve been working fine for me.” The truth is that educational technology is evolving at an amazing speed. Web 2.0 is now an old term, and by the time I learn a tool, it’s probably old news to thousands of other people. I’ll never be cutting-edge, but I’m sure going to give it my best.
The cheese is always going to move. Change is constant. Get use to it and embrace it. I actually like it. I get bored with a pattern. Luckily my non-linear mind fits well with constant change.
I have to be ready for the cheese to move. That’s easy to write; hard to actually do since I don’t know where the cheese is being moved. Understanding this has taught me to stay fresh with me ideas and be in constant connection with others. Twitter has certainly been my resource. Because I teach business communications, I have to stay aggressive with my communication awareness. I have to know exactly what current trends are in business communications. Actually, I’m finding that if I stay on my A-game, I’m learning about trends that haven’t reached my part of Wisconsin yet.
I need to be able to monitor when the cheese is getting old. For me, using Twitter and Flipboard (a mobile device application) has really helped me gauge if my resources are out of date. For example, years ago I taught students all about wikis. Guess how often I hear about people raving about wikis on Twitter? Almost never. I have to be able to look at what I’m doing and compare it to what’s hot.
I have to be able to adapt to change fast. In my profession, especially where I work, I can’t take three years to figure out how technology impacts business communications. I have to stay constantly fresh and always willing to learn something new. The to-do list never empties and that list needs to be tackled promptly.
I have to enjoy the change. For me, this is easy. I love change. I never reuse the same lesson plans. I almost always regret when I use the same handout. There’s always something I want changed depending on current trends or the students in my room. I love new teaching assignments. Okay, I should clarify that I dislike getting multiple new teaching assignments in one semester only because it’s so hard for me to manage. I throw myself into my job for 10 hours a day.
If you’re looking to get started on understanding and embracing the change around you, then you should start with Who Moved my Cheese. You can easily read it in a weekend and then start to apply the meaning on Monday. Most of all, practice true life-long learning. I’m thankful I embraced this philosophy a long time ago.