The United States Postal Service is one of the largest civilian employers in the country1, but has been plagued with financial struggles, making news headlines several times over in the last decade. In 2010, for example, the organization posted a mind-blowing 8.5 billion dollar loss2. I remember the debate over ending Saturday service only a few years ago.
The causes of these problems (and their solutions) are large and complex, but the decline in usage of traditional ‘snail mail’ (due to digital communication) and the logistical transport efficiencies achieved at the demand of massive retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart have no-doubt shaken the foundations of historical postal services.
Posti, the postal carrier in Finland, is adapting to change using a rather low-tech tool: the lawnmower. Here’s more detail from the Atlantic3:
Postal workers will mow Finns’ lawns on Tuesdays “due to the lower volume of advertisements and publications distributed on that day” between mid-May and August this year. Customers can order the service online and must provide their own lawnmower. Thirty-minute lawn-mowing sessions cost 65 euros, or about $74, per month, and 60-minute sessions are 130 euros, or about $147, per month. The icing on the cake: It’s tax-deductible.
Punola said the idea for the service came from postal workers themselves, who sound like they don’t have as much to do now that fewer people are using direct mail.
It’s both refreshing and encouraging that plans for adaptation came from within the organization, from employees on the ground. Posti is testing other solutions as well, one that includes partnership with a private company:
One program, in partnership with a health-services company, sends postal workers to the homes of people with disabilities, where workers help with chores, warm up meals, and provide support in other daily activities. Another, in partnership with a security company, brings workers to two central Finnish towns to carry out “security services.”
I have no doubt that we will see the entrepreneurial nature of humanity highly exposed in the coming years, as both established industries in first-world countries are toppled by technology and new ideas from nascent, second-and-third-world countries gain international footholds.
1. You can read about the top 10 employers of civilians in the USA, including the USPS, on USA Today's website.2. You can read more about the USPS's 2010 losses on the ABC News website.3. You can read the entire story about Finland's postal service mowing lawns, along with innovations from other countries, on The Altantic's website.