Economics & Management

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Conflict and Creativity at Work

Human Roots of Corporate Life

Albert Low is an internationally published author of many books, including Invitation To Practice Zen, which is now in its thirteenth printing. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree for scholastic attainment and community service by Queen’s University Ontario. He is currently director of the Montreal Zen Centre, which has over 200 students, many of whom are doctors, psychiatrists, and university professors.

Conflict and Creativity at Work contributes to the tide of activism that is calling for higher ethical standards and corporate social responsibility within the corporate world. It offers a new way to look at a company, work, a product and company organization. Nobel prizewinner Milton Friedman says that the only social responsibility a company has is to make a profit. Albert Low questions this basic assumption and provides an alternative view:  a company is a complex field of interacting and conflicting forces out of which a product emerges. The interests of the stockholder make up just one set of these forces.

The corporate system arises out of the natural creativity of human beings and is expressed in the work that we do. Therefore to understand a company, its organization and its reason for being, we must understand creativity and work – what they involve, and their importance to our mental health. This new understanding of social responsibility is imperative for the very survival of our way of life. Business Ethics quotes Thomas Donahue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President, as saying, “There is something fundamentally out of balance when short-term considerations become so dominant.” Creativity and Conflict at Work offers a new way to look at the corporate system and long-term corporate social responsibility.

Depression is widespread throughout western society. A contributing factor is the way the corporate system operates. People are now adjuncts to the system and the result is alienation and impotence. China and India are looming as major industrial competitors, and their employees are very well motivated. To compete in the West we must revise the present antiquated corporate philosophy that asserts that the interests of the stockholder are the only interests that the corporation can legally serve and adopt policies that promote corporate social responsibility.

See the author's web link at:

For those interested in the work of Albert Low, you can visit the Zen Center at

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-272-3
Paperback Price: £17.95 / $35.00
Release Date: September 2008
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No


Foreword by Alfonso Montuori
Preface and Acknowledgments


PART ONE The Dynamics of Human Nature
1 The Origins of Stress
2 On Perception and Thought
3 The Meaning of Creativity
4 Ambiguity, Creativity and Work
5 The Spectrum of Creativity, Perception and Thought

PART TWO The Structure of Work
6 Work and Organization
7 The Dilemma at Work
8 Management by Product
9 Idea and the Four Criteria

PART THREE The Company Field
10 The Three Power-holders
11 The Company as a Field
12 On Task Cycles
13 Types of Work
14 Conflict and Growth
15 Non-Productive Conflict — Territory and the Manager

PART FOUR Conflict, Creativity and Capacity
16 Commitment, Capacity and Ability
17 On Capacity and Ability

PART FIVE Ownership and Ethics
18 A Question of Ownership
19 Creativity, Spirituality and Ethics in the Corporate World


Low, author of Zen and Creative Management (1976), believes that corporations are not just for profits and stockholders, but rather are complex organizations that produce a product amid conflicting interests among stockholders, the market, and employees. He believes creativity is central to corporate life and helps corporations manage conflicting interests. Creativity also helps managers consider ethics and social responsibility as legitimate considerations in understanding and solving problems. With a focus on the workplace, Low pursues such topics as spirituality, stress, work organization, conflict, humor, ambiguity, and employees’ commitment, capacity, and ability… This volume is best suited to those interested in a philosophical perspective on the topic, particularly faculty and practitioners. Recommended.

From the author of the best-selling Zen and Creative Management (75,000+ copies sold), which received the following endorsements:

His insight and integrity is exactly the message that business leaders need to hear – particularly business leaders who seek to define a new way of working, competing, and succeeding. … I featured his book in an early issue of Fast Company. In my view, the course of business in the last seven years has only confirmed Albert’s philosophy. … A remarkable contribution to the discourse on business, work, and meaning.
Alan Weber, one time senior editor of the Harvard Business Review, and the founding editor of the magazine Fast Company

Zen and Creative Management is a must for managers whose objectives are to improve conditions in the workplace and to increase productivity it offers all managers a wide range of innovative ways to analyze long term priorities and day to day opera¬tions, and suggests methods to implement change.
Elliott Jaques, author of Requisite Organization: Total System for Effective Managerial Organization and Managerial Leadership for the 21st Century

Albert Low has written an original and im¬portant book on management. It combines West¬ern and Eastern modes of thought to construct an intensely practical and flexible approach to the solution of managerial problems.
Philip Kapleau, author of The Three Pillars of Zen

In planning today the problem is how to head off and control effects by anticipating them. Men have always tended to be servants of their technologies. Zen and Creative Management suggests ways of bypassing this fate.
Marshall McLuhan

And endorsements for Conflict and Creativity at Work are equally engaging:

Albert Low has spent a lifetime searching for the foundations of harmony and creative satisfaction in common human endeavors – inside and outside the corporation. His questions are timely for all executives to consider.
Kathryn Cason, Co-founder and President, Requisite Organization International Institute (ROII)

Great management calls for fundamental and keen awareness, of the sort that is easy to recognize – and very hard to teach. Albert Low, in an easy-going, straightforward, low-key and respectful way, provides that education in the context of corporate purpose. This is an erudite book, not opaque or academic, but thoughtful and intent on getting its readers through the looking glass of personal and organizational change.
Art Kleiner, Editor-in-Chief, strategy+business, and author of The Age of Heretics

Albert Low raises thought-provoking questions and ethical considerations that are important for the management field to consider. Elliott Jaques argued that the beginning of any science starts with the development of clearly articulated concepts that have only one unequivocal meaning. Albert Low in Conflict and Creativity at Work is willing to engage in the discussion of the meaning of foundational concepts in the management field that Elliott Jaques began over 60 years ago. It is a pleasure to read work that reflects the importance of that discussion.
Alison Brause, Business consultant and Board Member, Requisite Organization International Institute (ROII)

For more than a century, management thinkers have treated human consciousness as a black box, conveniently ignoring its role in the creation and management of a company. Albert Low takes us on a journey that will forever change our conceptions of organizations, work and the role of human creativity in making organizations sustainable and ethical organisms in the global ecosystem . . . For those tired of same old management books that offer pat answers and platitudes, this is a book worth pondering and cherishing for decades to come.
Ronald E. Purser, Professor of Management, San Francisco State University, and author of Time and Temporality in the Network Society

A stunning book. A paradigm breaking insight into the essence of work, organization, and enrichment (both financial & spiritual). It’s a tough read with huge pots of gold along the way. The book is our age’s version of The Structure of Scientific Revolution applied to business. It’s a revolution and an evolution.
Martin Rutte, Founder & Chair of the Board, The Centre for Spirituality and the Workplace, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax; co-author of the New York Times business best-seller, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

Writing in the rigorous tradition of Elliott Jaques, Albert Low has produced a systematic framework that deepens our understanding of modern organizations, while providing insights into the complexities and ambiguities of leadership. This wise and challenging book will appeal to anyone who seeks to build and sustain healthy, creative and ethical systems.
Sandy Cotton, Former Head of Leadership, Royal Military College of Canada, and Professor at Queen’s University School of Business, Toronto

Albert Low presents an outstanding book that will inspire readers to re-visit their concept of corporations in an altogether novel manner – emphasizing the critical role(s) of human creativity and constructive conflict . . .in true ‘guru’ style, Low reminds us that the true corporation does not sacrifice critical values such as corporate social responsibility and ethical behavior at the altar of short-term narrow goals such as shareholder return. A ‘must-read’ for management practitioners and researchers alike!
Arup Varma, Professor of Management Studies, Loyola University Chicago

An important, provocative, and compelling book, it is an impressive change from the slew of current management books that peddle quick fixes, management ‘fables’ and anecdotes. This book will help managers to understand the nature of work, to think clearly about organizations, and to use conflict to foster creativity and growth. Such a deep experience of organizations and thorough understanding of Elliott Jaque’s management theory could only have been written by a Zen master, Albert Low.
Don McCormick, Assistant Professor of Management, California State University, Northridge

Drawing from his own first-hand personal experience and spiritual insights, Albert Low shows why organizations are fundamentally human in nature, arguing that corporations are made for human beings, not the reverse. He offers us a powerful model for achieving dynamic unity in companies and in people that can lead to a humane and just future for all. Scholars, managers, and anyone interested in life and work will find themselves returning to it over and over again.
Don de Guerre, Associate Professor & Graduate Program Director, Department of Applied Human Sciences, Concordia University

This fascinating new book, combining the author’s deep spiritual understanding with a lifetime’s experience in business and management, provides a unique analysis of modern management practices.
Professor Jacqueline C. Vischer, Faculty of Environmental Design and Director of the New Work Environments Research Group, University of Montreal

Since first reading Albert Low’s book, Zen and Creative Management, I have used / referred to this book in my graduate management courses as a description of how to see management in a more holistic perspective. I look forward to incorporating insights from his new book, Conflict and Creativity at Work, into my management classes.
Rexford H. Draman, Associate Professor, School of Business, University of Texas at Brownsville

Conflict and Creativity at Work is a must read for all managers and concerned citizens who want to understand why tyranny and power now dominate corporate America. Albert Low goes beyond the myths of corporate capitalism and journalistic accounts of corporate greed to help us better understand our personal roles and responsibilities as managers and citizens. He is not just writing about business ethics but about what makes us human and by doing so he confronts our vulnerabilities while providing vision and hope for a sustainable world.
Terry Armstrong, Organizational Consultant

Whatever your profession this book allows you to view the workplace as an extension of your mind. Creative minds have fun making conflicts less frightening: Albert Low brings you a fresh and persuasive guide. 
José Prieto, Professor of Personnel Psychology, University of Madrid

Albert Low persuasively reveals the hidden dimensions of organizations, diving deep into the recesses of human nature. He points out the dynamic tension between two seemingly incompatible frames of reference - namely, the dynamics of striving for dynamic unity while expressing individuality. Low provides a provocative way of humanizing organizations, emphasizing the importance of process and attention to human needs over profits and the maximizing of shareholder wealth. Drawing examples from Zen and other religions, Low argues that spirituality and creativity in organizations will come from a change in the way people and organizations think. This ground-breaking book will be a valuable addition to the business school curriculum.
Jerry Biberman University of Scanton, Co-Editor of the Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion

Conflict and Creativity at Work is an important book . . Creativity is the only truly renewable resource available to us. The increasingly complex world we find ourselves needs to mine creativity, manage it, and develop the potential creativity. This book will become an important pillar in creating this new structure. I shall surely use it in my work and my teaching when it is on the bookshelves.
John Zeisel, President of The Hearthstone Alzheimer Foundation, & Visiting Professor, Salford University

This follow-up to 1976’s Zen and Creative Management calls for greater ethical responsibility among corporations, claiming that widespread feelings of depression, impotence and alienation throughout Western civilizations have created marketplace opportunities for India and China. Low, a best-selling author who teaches Zen philosophy at his own training center, examines the link between the natural creativity inherent in business and mental health by showing how corporate greed has undermined our willingness to fulfil goals in the workplace. The author offers a solution for corporate management that involves replacing the interests of stockholders with a broader sense of social responsibility.
Reference & Research Book News

Reviewed in the Journal of Education for Business, 85: 57-58 (2010), copyright Heldref Publications

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.