Moving the Cheese

Moving the cheese has a negative connotation, but our feelings about our environment changing and the behavior it produces are independent.

Moving the cheese is often frowned upon, but is it actually bad?

This past year I quit coffee.

Not necessarily on purpose. I actually love coffee. Though, when you get up to three cups per day, it’s probably a good idea to cut back, so I needed to.

So what changed? My wife rearranged the kitchen.

She “moved the cheese”.

“Moving the cheese” has a generally negative connotation, but the moving part is given more emphasis than the most important part – the behavior that the environment change creates.

The coffee pot, the scoop, the coffee, the water, the mugs all moved to different parts of the kitchen. No longer were they right next to each other, taking seconds to complete the coffee-making task.

When each of these items became further apart, it increased the friction of making a cup of coffee during the day. They didn’t move by much. It’s only an additional few steps, but it was enough to completely stop making coffee at all.

black coffee book caffeine close up
Photo by Daria Obymaha on

Sometimes we think that our habits are too hard to change. Even impossible. But that’s not true.

We change every single day. In fact, our brains want to change to become more adapted to our environment.

Did I complain? Yes.

Did my behavior change? Yes.

Was it good for me? Probably Yes.

If you want yourself, your team, or your users to change their behavior, change the environment, and let them adapt naturally. Don’t focus on if the cheese moved; focus on what behavioral changes will come as a result. It might be uncomfortable, there may be complaints, but we were made to adapt, and sometimes, it’s good for us.