Review of Who Moved My Cheese?

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  • Innovative
  • Applicable


You can’t evaluate the contents of this slender volume without also considering its almost immeasurable social impact. The sales figures read like an author’s dream: one million hardcover copies sold in 16 months, 21 million more copies in the next five years and, in 2005, Amazon identified Who Moved My Cheese? as its number one best-selling book, period. Stated in the simplest possible terms, pretty much everyone has read it. To date, Spencer Johnson’s total sales for all his books combined equal 40 million copies in 42 languages. Before Cheese, Johnson was already a best-selling author; he co-wrote the business classic The One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. It was Blanchard, among other friends, who urged Johnson to write Cheese after hearing him recite its story at social gatherings. The tale, like all successful parables, is a model of simplicity. Two “mice” and two mouse-sized “littlepeople” live in a maze. They find what appears to be a lifetime supply of “cheese” and settle down. But the cheese runs out, and the characters must face and cope with change. How they do it inspired millions of readers.

About the Author

Best-selling author Spencer Johnson, MD, also wrote The New York Times bestseller The Present and co-wrote the bestseller The One Minute Manager. He served as a leadership fellow at Harvard Business School. Who Moved My Cheese?: The Movie won a 2004 Telly Award.


Johnson begins by saying he underwent a personal crisis having to do with change and his response to it, which generated profound and perhaps singular self-insight. It speaks to his character that, rather than reveal the personal details of whatever he went through, he instead created a teaching parable about his experiences. Blanchard describes hearing Johnson tell this story multiple times even before they co-wrote The One Minute Manager.


Parables have been around as long as people could speak. A parable is a tale with a moral or teaching lesson, featuring symbolic or fanciful characters standing in for all humans – including you. Recognizing and considering your strengths and flaws is much easier when they appear in the guise of a parable character’s actions. If you read a story in which the main character shares your name and lives out precisely the same embarrassing or cowardly or stubborn or self-sabotaging behavior you perform, you might well deny that the character resembles you at all. But when a cute mouse named “Sniff” or “Scurry” or one of the littlepeople named “Hem” or “Haw” perform the same act, you can recognize yourself without feeling threatened. This makes you more receptive to the parable’s theme or messages and more open to changing your behavior.

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    B. L. 4 years ago
    Great summary! There are more excellent summaries of Who Moved My Cheese at WellRead;