What About the PO?
Written on August 3, 2012.
No, I’m not writing about Purchase Orders, although I’m sure much of my audience understands the importance of the PO to their business. I’m writing about the other PO – the Post Office. It’s equally important to business – at least it used to be – and is a business itself. A business, in fact, that is struggling to re-imagine and reinvigorate itself.
The PO had losses that were more than $3.2 billion (with a B) last quarter. There are all sorts of reasons – political and otherwise – for the loss that I’m not going to touch on. But the one reason I will talk about – perhaps the single biggest reason the post office is projected to lose $14.1 billion this year – is that we simply send much less snail mail.
Steve Hutkins, a professor at New York University and the founder of Savethe PostOffice.com says that to survive and thrive in the age of email, bloggers, and, online commerce, the PO “has to take innovation seriously.” Hutkins, along with economists and overseas postal workers, among others, was interviewed recently in Time magazine about how the Post Office might reinvent itself not just to save the institution and its employees, but to “fundamentally reshape its business.”
The ideas ran the gamut from turning mail trucks into mobile labs that could gather information about everything from weather to air pollution levels to offering basic financial services like the postal services in Europe do. The ideas themselves were innovative, but, for me, what made them stand out even more was the fact that they were able to help grow the business.
The other interesting thing was that these ideas weren’t put forth by the Post Office managers. I firmly believe that most innovative growth ideas come from the employees – they’re the ones who are in the trenches running the business, who can often see that doing things the same old way will get you the same old results.
I wonder if some clerk at the Post Office asked why the organization wasn’t partnered more closely with UPS stores or FedEx? Or maybe in the early 1990s back before email was ubiquitous, some mail carrier thought about developing a secure email exchange for things like mortgage documents or tax returns. Imagine if you could go to the PO to transmit the title docs for your mortgage? And it cost only $1.50 to do it. Over the arc of 20 years, that could add up to a big deficit reduction.
How do you innovate and avoid doing the same thing over and over again? Let me know here or on Twitter @Eric_D_Townsend.
Eric Townsend is Director of MSP and SMB Marketing for Intel Corporation. You can contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.