Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Peter Block and Communities

In a great book that I recommend to everyone I meet, Peter Block argues that all communities, all movements start as a conversation in a small group of people. This is how ideas form, this is how momentum happens. Yes, great speakers can move huge audiences, but that speaker is building on a platform created by a small group in a room somewhere.

Where are those small group conversations encouraged in conferences today? Where are real relationships fostered? Unfortunately they're relegated to breaks, to "networking" events, and to the golf course. (Nothing against golf, mind you, but is that really the best answer we have to the challenge of forging high-performance relationships?)

"The future is created one room at a time, one gathering at a time. Each gathering need to become an example of the future we want to create. This means that the small group is where transformation takes place... Small groups have the most leverage when they meet as part of a larger gathering....

"To build community, we seek conversations where people show up by invitation rather than mandate, and experience an intimate and authentic relatedness. We have conversations where the focus is on the communal possibility and there is a shift in ownership of this place, even though others are in charge. We structure these conversations so that diversity of thinking and dissent are given space, commitments are made without barter, and the gifts of each person and our community are acknowledged and valued." [Chapter 9 - The Small Group Is the Unit of Transformation]

Block nicely sums up the rules and guidelines for building communities. He identifies the important conversations that need to happen. This is the good stuff. This is how our conferences can be organized. This kind of event would create connections that matter.

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