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April Fool and Change Manager Walk into a Bar...

When I was younger I really enjoyed seeking out the single bogus news article that was printed amongst the real ones in the April 1st edition of the Toronto Star. 

There was something delightful about the process of sifting through the headlines, because for just one day the veil of authenticity and accountability and truth that normally covered credible journalism was dropped.  The process of identifying the fake news article was entertaining, especially when I found myself questioning the reality of real news events of the 1990s, for example:

 

  • 1995 Chicago Heat Wave kills 739 people, more than the great fire of 1871.  Truth is stranger than fiction?

  • Drew Barrymore table dances during talk show, flashes Letterman by lifting up her shirt.  Maybe?

  • Bo Jackson signs 1-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.  Are pro athlete skills transferable across pro sports?

  • US Census Bureau said it failed to count up to 63 million in 1990 census.  Isn’t counting their thing?

  • Man robs two Pittsburgh banks with lemon juice on his face; police make positive ID and arrest hours later.  Dunning Kruger effect? Lemon juice is a key ingredient in invisible ink, so logically; he thought it would render his face invisible on camera.

 

For the record none of these stories were phony – all were true. 

 

April fool’s day became progressively more interesting around the turn of the millennium because of the Internet. 

 

Any fool with a computer and a connection could get in on the action and join the fun on a really big stage that was previously reserved for mass media. Online content production was virtually free and the Internet had leveled the playing field for all creative writers. Basement bloggers and professionals alike competed side by side and the stakes for launching a successful April fool’s project were huge.

 

A well-crafted, believable yet bogus online story could garner as much attention as a multi-million dollar corporate advertising campaign.  Fast forward to present day and “gone viral” is a phenomenon that just about everyone is familiar with. 

 

But this year April fool’s day promises to be different because fake news is a ‘thing’ and since last autumn we have been getting it on a daily basis [insert Sean Spicer link here]. 

 

From my perspective, it’s not the actual stories about American politics or Brexit - or whatever - that are hard to believe.  The world is a strange place and often the truth really can be stranger than fiction.  Rather, what I find astounding it’s the vanishing veil of authenticity and accountability and journalistic truth that is replacing news with opinion and agendas (I used to think this stuff only happened in Russian media). I digress.

 

So what does this have to do with April fool’s day? 

 

Ironically, most main stream media sources that I was exposed to yesterday were reporting on how fake news has materially changed April fool’s day. Experts debated the appropriateness of and appetite for April fool’s stories in 2017.  Many reported that this was not a good year for April fool’s news.  I found it farcical that the Russians made their way to the middle of it all.  Conclusion?

 

While the humor is still present in 2017, April fools has changed forever.  It is no longer about the amusing bogus story; it’s about the real business marketing value

 

Right or wrong, my days of flipping through paper page headlines of the Toronto Star have been replaced by super-bowl-esque online fake advertisements that are strategically designed to promote a product or service.  

 

If the Change Manager and April Fool did walk into a bar last night, I 'm thinking this is precisely what they would have discussed.

 

***

In the spirit of humor and change and since it’s the 1st of April, I wanted to share a story that a Bay street executive told me a few years ago.  Let’s call him Bob.

 

Bob worked for a large international organization with offices around the world. As part of the rotational leadership program he was relocating to Shanghai for a few years to oversee ASPAC operations. 

 

Before his departure from Canada, Bob asked one of the Chinese Directors to draft a change management plan and email it back to him.  The email never arrived and when he sat down with the Director in the Hong Kong office, a one page document was produced.  At the top of the page, three words were written: Change Management Plan.

 

Bob asked why it was incomplete and in response the Director apologized and respectfully explained that changing the entire management team was a mistake and that he should consider working with the existing team.  They were an experienced group that was performing well and all of them had young families to support.

 

Bob and the Director had a good laugh as they talked through the difference between developing a plan to manage changes associated with his relocation and a plan to replace the entire management team. 

 

I enjoy sharing this story as a light example of how written communication can be misinterpreted and to highlight why conversations (when appropriate) are preferred to email. If you enjoyed this article and want to know when the next post is written please follow Inukshuk Enterprise Change Management Institute on LinkedIn or @InukshukECM on Twitter.

 

Happy April Fools Day!

Peter

 

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