What Does “Socially Calibrated” Mean as an Element of Social Business Design ?

Ever since hearing of "Social Business Design"  – a term associated with the Dachis Group’s positioning as a blue-chip expertise-and-experience based consulting firm focusing on helping enterprises operate more effectively in an interconnected business environment, I have been struggling to clarify for myself what is meant by the term ‘socially calibrated’ as used in the Group’s tag line.

"Social business design helps companies reinvent themselves into dynamic, socially calibrated organizations that gain constant value from their ecosystem of connections"

Please do not get me wrong … when I say I am struggling, I am not seeking to criticize.  I think the firm is on the right track, and I think parsing the syntax and vocabulary we are all bringing to this new party is an important exercise … mission-critical, in fact.

Here’s what I find on the Dachis Group’s web site that addresses ‘social calibration’:


A primary social calibration
As social tools and functionality are adopted more widely, it becomes less important for businesses to use traditional methods to force collaboration in the workplace, e.g. panoptic cubicle arrangements. Employees are entering the workforce socially engaged and used to collaborating. The social business hivemind is a new kind of corporate culture whereby all participants move together towards common goals. Physicists refer to this as “synchronous lateral excitation.”

Distributed governance
The social business hivemind makes decisions and receives continuous reinforcement through business interactions: a social inclination resides within a company’s culture and tempers planning, decision-making, and work output. Employees approach work with a social and collaborative mindset; customers expect participation and engagement; suppliers anticipate optimized and efficient process towards common goals.

Measurement and cultivation
Hivemindedness can be measured by assessing levels of collective awareness, engagement, and participation. Measurement here focuses on subjective perceptions – analytics can include surveys, interviews, text analysis, and so on. The goal is always to gain insight into constituents’ attitudes towards the value they get from participating versus the potential for trust issues and conflicts that they perceive. Once perceptions are measured, they can be constantly cultivated and remeasured to move the dial.

The explanations on the site continue, explaining the importance of Dynamic Signals and Metafiltering, and culminate in analyzing the various elements of a connected enterprise-customer-employee ecosystem for meaning and this the co-creation of economic value for all parties to the ecosystem.

I like this.  I think that it’s becoming clear to many that we are into a world of increased and dynamic complexity, and that we need design principles and implementable practices that are based on the constant presence of flows of information and feedback loops within connected eco-systems of purpose and value.

This new environent has been building in scope, reach and intensity for years now.  I think that the Dachis Group has thought this through quite well.  But .. I am still wondering about ‘social calibration’.

As I read the site’s explanation of the Dachis Group approach, it brought to mind the "sense-making" approach that is being promoted and taught by Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge Network, and other leading-edge thinkers and practitioners (and I have opined previously on the similarities to socio-technical systems theory and leading-edge OD (organizational development) principles and practices).

It was about three weeks ago that I started noodling on this.  Back then I made a few notes to myself regarding what I thought ‘social calibration’ might mean.  Here are those notes:

Social Calibration ?

I think it means that you look at the social ‘architecture’ of an enterprise, including its markets, customers and employees and how they interact with the organization’s business processes.

I think it means that (initially) based on observation and some knowledge of current patterns of behaviour in networks of people operating ‘on purpose’, you experiment with and implement

  • new work designs
  • hyperlinked productivity platforms for exchange and collaboration
  • the aggregation and use of collective intelligence using tagging, enterprise search and other collaborative processes.

Before this, however, you set baselines or thresholds of organizational performance and productivity from which to measure forward performance,

And then you work at understanding what works, why it works and in what conditions it works really well or may not work.

From there you clarify where changes need to be made in leadership style, management practices, work design and organizational structure(s), internal and external communications and engagement, and performance measurement and support.

With an initial framework in place for watching and ‘nudging’ the ecosystem, you begin to show and publicize in realistic ways why these ways of working are important for both future organizational success and personal work satisfaction and enrichment.

How’s that for consultant-speak ?

I think that’s what I inferred, off the cuff, from the term ‘socially calibrated’.


Please bear in mind that the above points were just rough notes I made to myself before I went looking at the Group’s web site.

I am left with my struggles with the term ‘social calibration’, which I do not doubt the Dachis Group has chosen carefully and wisely.

I think my struggle is with the question of "calibrate against what?", given that there are no real models of success against which to calibrate (which in my opinion is a large part of the ongoing frustration with the difficulty of calculating the ROI of implementing social computing in organizations).

Anyway … I don’t have any real answers to my questions, other than I think that if you compare my notes to the Dachis Group’s more complete explanation (on their web site) there are parallels and the general direction of thinking is aligned.

That said, I am sure we are all going to learn a lot about what works and what does not work in the coming decade.


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Jim Burke

I admire your willingness to share your thought processes in trying to see if there is something there. Calibration, of course, implies some standard against which to measure, as you point out in the performance standards. What I would think might be possible is to use the process of creating performance standards in the social context. Rather than having the seniors, through some opaque strategic planning process and metrics design, engage the social networks to create the standards.
The question then raises a complementary question: what are socially calibrated responsibilities and accountability?


What I would think might be possible is to use the process of creating performance standards in the social context. Rather than having the seniors, through some opaque strategic planning process and metrics design, engage the social networks to create the standards.

First, thanks for stopping by, Jim. Much appreciated.

Yes, I agree with your point above, and I believe I have written about it before, though I’d have to look for it and I suspect its buried somewhere in one of my past semi-regular screeds about how we need to change work design and management methods and practices.

virginia Yonkers

I think of a machine being calibrated in which all parts are working together at their maximum to move a machine to its maximum capacity. If one of the pieces is out of sync, it needs to be recalibrated.

My understanding is that this metaphor can be extended to an organization in which each individual is “calibrated” within their department or team to function at their maximum. If, however, a department for example, is out of sync with a interdisciplinary team, there needs to be a “recalibration” in which the departments become in sync so that the interdisciplinary group can work to its capacity. This requires constant recalibration as different parts of the organization are changed (i.e. reorganization, new groups developed, new technology, new hires, loss of expertise through retirement).

I think what is more important is what do they mean by design? Who is designing? What is the design process? Who is involved in the design?


Thanks for stopping by, Virginia.

Your points about calibration are well made. The questions you ask are the important ones.


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