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Blue Shirt Nation: Semi-empowering employees for profit, a misuse of Drupal

On the Achieve Internet alleged blog, Jim Edgett writes about how with their help "Blue Shirt Nation Capitalizes with Drupal" (p.s. if the Agaric blog ever reads like a press release, slap us around a little in the comments, OK?)

The Blue Shirt Nation™ team of Best Buy™ had as its goal to build a dynamic, user driven social networking site for their employees’ use. The Blue Shirt Nation founders, Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt, had a vision of creating a feature rich environment for the exchange of cross-functional ideas, sharing of best practices and stimulating the creation of new approaches or services.

OK, so a corporation's executives actually acknowledge that their workers know a lot about how the place should be run. I'll give them points. And they want to use a user-empowering system, so much so that they've turned to Drupal. Extra points.

But what Best Buy's fearless leaders are really trying to do by letting the Blue Shirt Nation do anything at all is suck as much knowledge and information out of their workers in pursuit of dividends for stockholders (after padding their own salaries, of course). Yes, this is a time-honored practice and, indeed, required by law. It is still a perverse use of open source free software, especially a community-building tool such as Drupal, because Best Buy's officers will not give up control.

I very much doubt that Blue Shirt Nation will become a forum for exchanging cross-functional ideas like worker ownership or even large-scale profit-sharing; nor a place to share best practices for preserving workers' rights, such as through unionizing; nor for stimulating the creation that puts people's dignity above pushing electronic junk.

BS Nation probably won't be a place where you can point out that you're being asked to freely contribute your ideas, in addition to all the work and thinking you already do, to further prop up an unjust system. How unjust?

The corporate system rewards rich investors for literally doing nothing, and executives are grossly overpaid for overseeing this tidy arrangement.

Sure, people want their jobs to go better and know an awful lot that could help those tasked with ordering us around be a lot less stupid about it. I can see reason to share ideas with Best Buy's brass. But I hope Best Buy's targeted assets here get a taste of community and see how limited it is within corporations, ultra-hierarchical with rare exceptions, and look elsewhere.

Indeed I hope workers everywhere, and in this context especially retail workers (a group with many advantages for organizing but as yet disunited and consequently disrespected), will look for places to discuss how business should really be run.

This is a community PWGD could host, or maybe SEIU will extend their use of Drupal - and I hope understand the need for transparency in decisionmaking, about content and otherwise - transparency that would destroy corporations as light to Dracula.


Substance behind Best Buy's worker empowerment?

ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) initiative takes freedom seriously:

–Work isn’t a place you go, it’s something you do.

–Employees have the freedom to work any way they want

–Every meeting is optional

–Nobody talks about how many hours they work

–No judgment about how you spend your time

I'm hoping to have to take back a lot of the above. (Light to Dracula? Did I write that? Does Dracula even care about light?)

But I just don't see a declaration that the distribution of wealth and rewards is unfair coming from a stockholder-owned corporation any time soon.

Not a corporate endeavor...

Unless I've missed something, as I understand it this is not a corporate endeavor -- or at least that's not how it started.

I understand what you're trying to say about BB sucking info & knowledge from their workers, but it was started by a couple of IT guys. I'm sure corporate BB is getting as much info from it as possible, but I also think that the people participating have created a community of collaboration and sharing.

Just my $0.02...

from an employee's perspective

Hey, I have worked at Best Buy for the last 4 years and want you to know how incredible the new social apps have been at Best Buy. From blueshirtnation(like facebook), forums where we can say anything we want and only get in trouble if it is HR issues, the loop marketplace(tool to empower employees to innovate), to the Internal Wiki in which any employee can share r change info in real time, these new apps have made a BIG difference for this company. As an example, Best Buy's current employee discount is 5% above cost. Corporate decided to save money, they would change the discount policy to 5% above cost(unless we the profit is 20% or more...then the discount would be capped. Within 5 days there were thousands of comments and posts on blueshirtnaiton and the internal forums and the company...IN 5 DAYS...reversed their decision. Also, best buy's average employee age is 21/22. In the store 60% of employees are under 25. However there is nearly a 40% 401k participation among best buy field empoyees. This is due to the video contest we had around the 401k plan.

You want to see what can happen when a company accepts its youth and empowers them to make a difference? On october 26, the company will have new services to help parents set up parental controls on their game systems. this came about because an 18 year old employee had multiple customers upset because their kids were accessing their myspace pages on their game system without their parents when their parents had set rules about myspace use. This employee took it on himself to create a business plan and put t on the innovation site. Corporate then worked with him to develop a test and 8 months later it is launching company wide...

Now before you say Best Buy is using this employee's idea...Last year Brad Anderson and Brian Dunn created an annual innovation award with THEIR OWN MONEY!!! Brad Anderson and Brian Dunn now give out $1 million in cash and $500,000 in stock rewards to innovative ideas that have successful financial outcomes. Anyone can submit their innovative ideas and the goal is to get corporte and the field to work together. VERY cool.

I know corporations are evil and the man is always trying to bring employees down...Because of this emphasis on the store employees turnover is down from over 100% 3 years ago to near 50%. There are so many benefits we get now including pet insurance and Womens leadership classes and it all started a couple years ago with Gary and Steve and what they did to get the voices of the employees heard.

It's amazing to think that

It's amazing to think that pet insurance is now given as a benefit. Gary and Steve have certainly done a great job to get the voices of employees heard.

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