Last week a colleague lent me a book about change. “Who Moved my Cheese?” is a parable, a story about four mice who search for cheese in a maze. When two happen upon a huge store of cheese they stop their daily search and become comfortable, even arrogant in their success.

The two didn’t notice that the pile of cheese they were feasting on was diminishing each day. Not only that, it was becoming stale, even mouldy. Then one day it was gone. Paralysed by the shock, they had lost the ability to adapt, instead, their sense of entitlement caused them to become angry: “who moved my cheese?”

There are three certainties in life, death, taxes and change. Life is about change. However, the rate of change happening around us right now is increasing exponentially. If we don’t adapt, hunt for new cheese, we will become paralysed with fear and even anger.

The Weekend Australian brought more evidence of the change we are seeing. Articles like, “Future of Work”, and, “Regions must adapt to contain the pain that automation inevitably will bring”, highlight again the impact that robotics and artificial intelligence are having on jobs.

Humans are being replaced by robotics at an alarming rate. If it can be automated you can be sure it will, as corporations seek new ways to maximise profits.

“The jobs of the future will be in the few domains where humans retain a relative advantage over computers: tasks involving creativity, social interactions and the ability to respond to the unexpected.”

How are we as a nation responding to this new world order, where 40-50% of the jobs we know of today will be automated within the next decade? Even professions such as accountants, journalists, lawyers, and doctors will be impacted by automation. Will we be like Hem, who in the story of Who Moved my Cheese didn’t read the signs and believed that change would never impact him, until one day he woke up and found the cheese gone?

How is our education system changing to ensure that we are nurturing and growing young people’s creative, innovative and entrepreneurial capacities? Why are we choosing to marginalise the development of a person’s social capacity over a desire to fix the declining academic skills of our young people as measured by NAPLAN, Pisa, and Year 12?

And we can’t just blame our politicians. It would seem that every way they turn they are blocked by the Hems of the world. “Keep the status quo. We are comfortable. It will get better. We will just try harder, or throw more money at it.”

There is great wisdom in the book Who Moved my Cheese: Old beliefs do not lead you to new cheese. The longer we wait, believing that we will be ok, the greater disservice we are doing our young people. Our education system has to be transformed so we are equipping our students with capacities, abilities and skills that computers don’t have.


Who Moved My Cheese, by Dr Spencer Johnson is a great book about change and leadership.