Immediacy in the Wild

In Make Yourself Clear, Reshan and I devote an entire section to immediacy. In short, immediacy occurs when information is communicated at a time that is optimal for both the communicator and the recipient.

While researching the book, we became mildly fascinated with receipts — the way in which a transaction is or is not documented. We liked restaurant receipts, for example, that calculated and shared different tip ranges. As you sign these receipts and note the final total, they assist you in quickly adding the appropriate tip amount. The restaurant management’s use of such receipts indicates a commitment to immediacy — they share information at the precisely right time, benefitting their servers and their customers by reducing friction in the tipping process.

Here’s another nice example of immediacy in the wild (and via receipt). It’s a receipt from a CVS that breaks out the amount of the bill that can be reimbursed through a flexible spending account.

A receipt like this is immediate in that it helps CVS to communicate information at a time that is optimal for them (they have the numbers and an attentive audience), helpful for me, the customer (I understand on-the-spot how much I can submit for reimbursement), and helpful for the company managing my FSA (when I submit the receipt, they can quickly see what CVS has categorized as appropriate expenses and then compare it to their own calculation). Further, this kind of receipt helps the FSA program more generally because it serves as a reminder that such a program exists, that it can be applied to even a casual CVS run, and that it can be this simple.

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