Move your own Cheese: Innovate yourself
Before I start, let me tell you a little about the book that inspired me to write this blog: Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. Written by Spencer Johnson and first published in 1998, this book is a true gem for managing and dealing with change.
The book takes a pair of mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two little people – a humans metaphor (Hem and Haw) each on a journey to find cheese. The humans find cheese first and eat it all, while the mice arrive later to find the cheese gone. The mice were prepared for this kind of situation, thus they start their search anew and ultimately find more cheese. But the humans blame each other for moving their cheese and don’t believe that it is actually gone. One of them plays the victim and is not ready to leave his comfort zone. Finally, the other human overcomes his fears and leaves the other in search of cheese.
Sometimes change takes us by surprise – so much so, that we don’t want to change. This happens when we have been in our comfort zone for too long; complacent and at ease. This results in tunnel vision, stagnation, no creative thinking, and no innovation. Blatantly copying a competitor becomes a product strategy while the competition is innovating like crazy and eating away at our market share.
In this post, I am going to take inspiration from this book and apply it to our professional lives and our business – but with a twist. If your cheese hasn’t been moved in a while, that’s a sign of stagnation and down-hill slide. If your cheese hasn’t been moved in a while, I challenge you to get up and move your own cheese. innovate yourself.
Step out of your Comfort Zone
To escape stagnation and to experience growth, whether for an individual or business, the most important thing to do is to step out of your comfort zone. Explore new territories. Experience new things. Discover new ideas. Spark your creativity. Also, apply this rule to your products. ‘Just because it ain’t broken doesn’t mean it’s working perfectly.’ Find better ways of doing things.
If something has worked well for you in the past (we are talking about your comfort zone), it doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing new will. Be open to change and learn to change with it or, better, yet, Be The Change!
Reinvent and rediscover yourself. Read periodicals, paint a picture. read a book. take classes, visit Italy. Be constantly on the lookout for new experiences. Don’t shy away from change, don’t fight it – embrace it. Look for better and new things to do that offer something you have never known or done before. Enjoy the thrill of learning new things! Sharpen the saw. Innovate yourself.
Two very real examples come to mind in terms of opportunity to re-invent yourself. Imagine if you were a US Postal worker and this new thing called Internet displaced 80% of your mail business. Imagine you’re an autoworker in Detroit and your job is being shipped overseas. How would you have responded to these “move my cheese” moments?
Be Ready to Jump
Be ready to take on new challenges and tackle problems that are unheard of. Prepare yourself for every obstacle that might come your way. Your state of complacency is not going to last forever. By taking the initiative yourself, nobody can harm you by sliding the rug from under you. You will always be ready to jump up so that sliding the rug won’t impact you adversely. This kind of foresight only comes from looking 3-years ahead – anticipating, envisioning, and speculating.
Venture into every new terrain with high hopes – hold your head high and be optimistic but do your homework. Be open to new possibilities and do things that you have never done before! This might seem unconnected, but it will help you grow both personally and professionally. If people don’t call you crazy, then your idea is just not bold enough and big enough.
To conclude, your next job, your next big idea, or your next venture, does not come during the 9 to 5 drill, but how you spend the rest of the time every day, outside of your work hours. If your employer and your team hasn’t moved your cheese in a while, get up and move your own cheese.
“If you do not change, you can become extinct.” – Spencer Johnson