Delayed Gratification: The Power And Business of Not Giving Someone What They Want Right Away

In China the post office has developed a new service that they believe will help to bring down the country’s divorce rate.  The service allows a husband or wife to write a letter to their significant other and the post office will hold it and then send it to the addressee still sealed, 7 years later.

Intrigued by the idea, it had me thinking some various thoughts. What an interesting way for the post office to try and raise money, have you heard about the trouble the US Post Office is in? Then I thought, wow – that must be amazing to receive one of those. I’ve been to a few seminars where we write a letter to our future self and it shows up in our mailbox 6 months to a year later and it was always fascinating to receive it.

Then the typical thought that always comes to mind when something new and creative, yet seemingly simple, crosses my path came up. How do I turn the basis of this idea into a business with something else?  Or said like a case study straight out of Ideo’s “Ten Faces of Innovation“, how do the various facets of this idea cross-pollinate with other things to form even better things?

In today’s hyper paced, too multi-tasked world there’s plenty of room for helping people delay gratification.  There’s also plenty of value that could be derived from the process. Here are some quick examples:

  • A Facebook app that doesn’t let you immediately post status and check-ins after you activate it. Say goodbye to posting something embarrassing after too many drinks and not realizing it till morning.
  • A service where you have to thoughtfully write out a food menu for an entire week ahead of time and only those groceries or meals show up to your door.  Say goodbye to binge and emotional eating.
  • An add-on to your wedding photographer’s package where he/she asks you to write a letter to your significant other and it gets delivered 6 months later when you receive your final album.
  • A manager asking her/his team member to start the project or year off by writing down exactly how he/she will perform for the year – then opening it for the person’s performance review. Ok, that one deals more with the psychology of performance and isn’t a business – but it could transform a business. Start a consulting company where you recommend it.
  • How about having a place where a person can upload his/her banking info and track finances and have it then send alerts when it’s time to act.  Woops, that already exists.
  • We’ve all seen The DaVinci Code movie. How come no one is marketing a time capsule service you can pass down from generation to generation?

As I said, as the gem of the original China Post idea cross-pollinates, it seems that there’s lots of opportunities to deliver some real value by not giving someone something right away. In the meantime I’m going to go write a letter to myself about the fifty most important things I want to do over the next 12 months and why.  Who wants to hold it till next year for me – I’ll pay you?

Matt Kane

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