Peter Block

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For the Australian politician, see Peter Block (politician).

Peter Block (born 1940) is an American author, consultant, and speaker in the areas of organization development, community building, and civic engagement.

He was born in 1940 to Jewish parents, Ira and Dorothy Block. He currently resides with life partner, Cathy Kramer, in Cincinnati, Ohio.[1][2][3]

Education and career[edit]

Peter Block completed his undergraduate studies in Industrial Management at the University of Kansas in 1961 and obtained a Masters Degree in Industrial Administration from Yale University in 1963. He started his career as an organizational consultant in 1963 in the information service department at Esso (today ExxonMobil).[4] In the early 1970s Peter co-founded the consulting firm "Block Petrella Weisbord" with Tony Petrella and Marvin Weisbord. He is also founder of The School for Managing of the Association for Quality and Participation as well as the training company Designed Learning.[5] Peter serves on the Board of Directors of Cincinnati Classical Public Radio,[6] the Advisory Board for The Festival in the Workplace Institute[7] as well as the Board of Elementz Hip Hop Center[8] in Cincinnati. Together with other volunteers, Peter started A Small Group,[9] that aims to facilitate discourse towards a new community narrative as underscored by Peter's work on civic engagement. PR Newswire recently reported that Peter Block joined LivePerson Inc's Board of Directors.[10]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Peter Block is the recipient of the Organization Development Network's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award.[11] In 2004 he received their first place Members' Choice Award in recognition of his book, Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used (1999) as the most influential book for Organizational Development practitioners over the past 40 years.[12] Among other national awards, he also received the American Society for Training and Development Award for Distinguished Contributions, the Association for Quality and Participation President's Award, and he was entered into Training Magazine's HRD Hall of Fame.[13]

Work and ideas[edit]

Peter Block's work generally focuses on alternatives to patriarchal beliefs pervasive in Western culture and his ideas proffer that cultural change can be brought about through consent and connectedness as opposed through mandate and force.[14] Peter contends that cultural change is only possible when it is preceded by relationship and connectedness among its members.[15] Peter is the author and co-author of several books (see Selected Bibliography below). His most recent, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (2010), is co-authored with John McKnight, emeritus professor of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.[16] This book is a culmination of Peter's work on community and the cultural change needed for the creation of a more sustainable future.

Culture and community[edit]

Regarding the changing of cultural beliefs, Peter Block argues that a "culture of accountability" is needed and feasible if attention is diverted away from leaders and refocused on citizens with a commitment towards the creation of a deeper sense of community and citizenship.[17][18] Peter's conceptualization of community is more complex, but he generally connects the term with reality outside of systems and institutions. He also uses the term in reference to an aggregation of people or neighborhoods that have something in common.[19] Peter builds on Robert D. Putnam's ideas around the practical importance inherent in a "sense of community". As Peter explains, a community’s well-being relies on the quality of the relationships and the cohesion that exists among its citizens, known as a community's "social capital".[20]

Ultimately, Peter Block challenges communities and their leaders to transform the isolation, fear, and self-interest prevalent in Western culture into connectedness and caring for the whole by starting with accountability and generosity amongst its members. This is his notion of the "ideal world" where accountability is abundant, commitment is authentic, and a community consciousness is prevalent throughout the global village.[21]

Citizenship and consumerism[edit]

Peter Block's notion of a citizen is someone that is accountable and committed to the well-being of the whole[22] as well as a participant in a democracy, irrespective of their legal status. As Peter puts it, a citizen is "one who chooses to create the life, the neighborhood, the world from their own gifts and the gifts of others".[23] However, he points to a paradox: in the realization of citizenship today many who have full citizenship rights wait for others to contribute to their life and yet themselves contribute little to democracy or the well-being of their community. Whereas others without these rights are major contributors to community and democracy. Nevertheless, Peter generally attributes citizenship to those functioning as full participants in a democracy.[24]

His conceptualization of a "consumer" might be regarded as more contentious. In his words, "a consumer is one who has surrendered to others the power to provide what is essential for a full and satisfied life" and he goes as far as saying, "Consumerism is not about shopping, but about the transformation of citizens into consumers".[25] Moreover, Peter is of the opinion that there is a growing movement of people that believes that a full and satisfied life is obtained within their communities as opposed to the market place.

Stewardship and service[edit]

Peter Block conceives of "stewardship" as an umbrella term that encapsulates the means towards the achievement of fundamental change in the manner in which we govern institutions.[26] His conceptualization of "service" is more complex. He argues that service is realized in both the "language of service" and the "experience of service". The problem however, as he argues, is that we[who?] have the language of service, but lack the experience of it. He attributes this lack to self-interest present in ourselves as well as our institutions.[27] He believes service is only truly realized when it is "authentic" and when the following characteristics are present: there is a balance of power; the primary commitment is to the larger community; and there is a balanced and equitable distribution of rewards.

Peter argues that these notions of stewardship and service (see aforementioned definitions) are, however, not characteristic of how organizations are currently being run. He explains that although these notions are reflective of our intentions towards governing, they are not reflective of the reality.[28] Block is regarded as a notable supporter, with others like Margaret Wheatley, Max DePree, and James Autry, of the basic premise inherent "servant-leadership" implying that leaders should put the needs of followers ahead of their own needs.[29]

Notable undertakings[edit]

In collaboration with Werner H. Erhard, Peter Block designed courses and trained clergy and grassroots leaders in transformation skills and perspectives in leadership and integrity to effect peace and reconciliation in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.[30]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

Co-authored books[edit]

  • The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods (2010), ISBN 978-1-60509-584-4
  • Freedom and Accountability at Work: Applying Philosophic Insight to the Real World (2001), ISBN 0-7879-5594-9

Articles[edit]

  • "Rediscovering Service: Weaning Higher Education from Its Factory Mentality" in Educational Record, 76(4):6-13
  • "Servant Leadership: Creating An Alternative Future" in The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, 2(May 2006):55-79

References[edit]

  1. ^ Weisser, L. "A Conversation with Peter Block". The Canadian Learning Journal, 14(2):6
  2. ^ Peter Block. [1]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  3. ^ Wilson, KY. "What Would Peter Do?". [2]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  4. ^ Coens, T & Jenkins, M. "Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire And What To Do Instead". Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2001, p. xiii
  5. ^ Mastery Foundation. [3]. Retrieved 5 November 2010
  6. ^ WGUC. [4]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  7. ^ ALIA Institute. [5]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  8. ^ Elementz
  9. ^ A Small Group. [6]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  10. ^ PR Newswire. [7]. Retrieved 8 November 2010
  11. ^ ASTD. [8]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  12. ^ Organization Development Network [9]. Retrieved 5 November 2010
  13. ^ Peter Block. [10]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  14. ^ Greenleaf, R (Ed). "The International Journal of Servant-Leadership". 2006, 2(1):79
  15. ^ Weisser, L. "A Conversation with Peter Block". The Canadian Learning Journal, Fall 2010:6
  16. ^ Northwestern University. [11]. Retrieved 4 November 2010
  17. ^ Block, P. "Servant Leadership: Creating An Alternative Future". The International Journal of Servant-Leadership, 2006, 2(1):75
  18. ^ Nirenberg, J. "Singapore Management Review". January 2001. [12]. Retrieved 6 November 2010
  19. ^ McKnight, J & Block, P. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. 2010, p. 5
  20. ^ Block, P. "Community: The Structure of Belonging". 2008, p. 5
  21. ^ Cox, CK & Meda, AK. “New Horizons for Leadership Research and Practice: Ethical & Global Sustainability”. Midwest Academy of Management Conference Proceedings. [13]. Retrieved 8 November 2010
  22. ^ Block, P. Community: The Structure of Belonging. 2008, p. 63
  23. ^ McKnight, J & Block, P. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. 2010, p. 7
  24. ^ McKnight, J & Block, P. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. 2010, p. 7
  25. ^ McKnight, J & Block, P. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. 2010, p. 7
  26. ^ Block, P. Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest. 1993, p. xx
  27. ^ Block, P. Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest. 1993, p. xx–xxi
  28. ^ Block, P. Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self Interest. 1993, p. xxi
  29. ^ Willis M. Watt. "Facilitative Social Change Leadership Theory: 10 Recommendations toward Effective Leadership". Journal of Leadership Education, 8(2):45
  30. ^ Mastery Foundation. [14]. Retrieved 5 Novemvber 2010

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