Conflict and Creativity at Work

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Conflict and Creativity at Work


Human Roots of Corporate Life

Albert Low





"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest

–but the myth –persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."
John F Kennedy


How do we address the present financial "meltdown"?
The present financial meltdown must tell us that a new understanding is of vital importance for the very survival of our way of life. As far back as the Winter 2005 edition of the magazine, Business Ethics quoted Thomas Donahue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President, as saying, “There is something fundamentally out of balance when short term considerations become so dominant …that the long term view is lost.”  “Short-termism has driven us to dangerous new heights,” he added, “when we focus on a company’s numbers and ignore its business.”

Is shareholder profit a company's only social responsibility?

In Conflict and Creativity at Work the author exposes the myth endorsed by Nobel prizewinner Milton Friedman, who says that the only social responsibility a company has is to make a profit. This view is widely accepted in our society, but it has brought us to the brink of disaster.  

What is a "Company"?
The book offers another view of a company: it 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. By offering and justifying a radically new way to look at a company, work, a product, and company organization the book makes a contribution to the burgeoning tide of activism that is calling for higher ethical standards and corporate social responsibility within the corporate world.

How do we understand what a "Company" is?
The corporate system arises out of the natural creativity of human beings.  This creativity, in the main, 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.

Is there a new way to look at the "Corporate System"?
Although pressure is mounting for corporate social responsibility, we do not have an adequate understanding in which to root new standards of ethics and ethical behavior. In this book the author is offering a new way to look at the corporate system that will provide that understanding.

Why this book?
In 1976 Anchor Books published Zen and Creative Management, a book that Low wrote while he was a practicing manager.  It went through a number of editions and printings and sold 75,000 copies. He was urged over the past several years to bring this book up to date.  He was at the same time wanting to write a book about creativity and work. Although Conflict and Creativity at Work: Human roots of Corporate Life is a completely new book, it nevertheless manages to merge both of these wishes.  

Endorsements of Conflict and Creativity At Work


“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, President, Livelihood, a management services company, Santa Fe, NM; Founder & Chair of the Board, The Centre for Spirituality and the Workplace, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada 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 Scranton, Co-Editor, Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion

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"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 PhD, President, Hearthstone Alzheimer Care & The Hearthstone Alzheimer  Foundation & Visiting Professor, Salford University