Zen & Creative Management by Albert Low

Modern capitalism is absolutely irreligious without internal union, without much public spirit, often, though not always, a mere congeries of possessors and pursuers.


~ Maynard Keynes

Are we confronted with a tragic, insolvable dilemma? Must we produce a sick people in order to have a healthy economy, or can we use our material resources, our inventions, our computers to serve the ends of man? Must individuals be passive and dependent in order to have strong and well-functioning organizations?

~Eric Fromm

I look at Zen not as a religion but as a way of thinking, and at scientific breakthrough-the joy of creating something-as a form of enlightenment

~The author

Conflict is the very source of creation; thus, what is most to be feared by the company that wants its management to remain creative, is loss of a sense of conflict through the resolution of conflict by an old man’s methods.

~The author

Zen and Creative Management, by Albert Low, is the best book that I have read and is the most interesting to me in bringing a system of spirituality into the business world. Interestingly enough, Buddhism is not mentioned in detail other than the very beginning and then sprinkled throughout the book and the last three chapters. Interesting that the author waited to cover Zen in more detail til the end. One doesn’t have to be an expert at Zen to understand the concepts.

It’s been 3 years since this book first appeared at the Happy Dragon Book store. After devouring it a couple times, it now is read on a deeper level. This will probably happen for a while, i.e. going back and re-reading to get in on a deeper level. Areas that were too complex feel easier to grasp the 3rd and 4th time around. It really feels that this book could be laid out into a manual where exercises are drawn out from the concepts. I am working on a .ppt. It is a lot like Steve Hagen’ s book Buddhism Plain and Simple. Much of understanding the message does come from reading the author’s writing style. I have written an overview of Buddhism Plain and Simple so I guess I can with this. Recording my thoughts might be the start. It really flowed and I had an urge to come back to the book. I was able to finish it where many books lately have been hard. I have been looking for a system. One of the initial points is “Dilemma” and Zen is helpful in that arena to deal with dilemmas.

So, the dilemma is often times businesses wanting to decrease the tension that exist within it. Businesses like family and other entities have tension. It reminds me of contrast-desire is created by the contrast of the universe. We have to get comfortable with tension in business. Businesses try to relieve the tension by coming up with systems, among other things, without taking into account the whole that businesses are a part of. Throughout the book, he talks about different aspects of a business. He breaks down work and different types of work – The work is not about the “right” solution. There are no right solutions.

More from the Foreward:

Dilemmas arise out of the whole; problems come with the luxury of being able to reduce the whole to component parts. With dilemmas, unlike problems, there are no right solutions; one can only choose the most suitable decision. This has always been the case but nowadays managers do not simply have to wrestle with dilemmas that arise within their own companies, but also with those that arise from the interaction of their companies with society as a whole.

~ The Author

Karl Marx said that every system carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. … Pollution is fast becoming the number-one threat to the future- (Note: it is the number one issue here in 2019). “Outpacing other threats such as overpopulation, depleted resources, and nuclear disaster. Pollution, however, is but one horn of the societal dilemma. The need for full employment is another. The present specters of depression, unemployment, poverty, and disillusionment are the other side of the story. The pendulum will swing again, jobs will once more become plentiful, but how much more litter, discarded chemicals, waste material, and waste gasses can our planet survive.” This was written back in the 70’s.

A full dilemma, moreover, as this book will show, has four horns, not just two. The societal dilemma also includes the need to control inflation, which still threatens the financial structure, and also free access to credit, which has become a principle feature of that structure. Each of these four is dependent on the others and none can be resolved in isolation. Each is a dimension of the whole.

~ The Author

I remember back in the 70’s how inflation was so impactful. I was 12 and the gas crisis hit. Since then, there has been this fear of inflation coming back to hit us. Alan Greenspan was always trying to limit inflation. He tried to limit the economy when things were heating up with regulations and not raising the interest rate. Then in the 90’s the banks became so big and so did the investment banks and they allowed to be in the others industry. Was it Glass Spiel Act and derivatives? I think this is what we try to do. We fix something here but we don’t take the whole into account. This is the beauty of Albert Low’s book. He comes up with systems that I wouldn’t have come up with or thought of. He links certain actions with certain departments. For example, he as a really good diagram in the appendix. What this book has proven to be is a wonderful blueprint to view working in a business, not just as a consultant but in an actual business.

He uses the term Life Force in the last paragraph of the Foreward, which is why I like this book and how it is unique for business:

“The life force that organizes species, organs, and organisms also molds organizations,. Human beings cannot conquer nature-they are nature in action. The creative leaps made by man and the creative leaps made by nature are of the same kind. Nature makes use of what may be called “un reculer pour mieux sauter,” a recoiling, in order to leap that much better. When nature’s evolutionary drive has reached a cul-de-sac, it withdraws and breaks out from a new point in a new direction. I am suggesting that Zazen is a discipline that uses un reculer pour mieux sauter; this approach provides greater facility in dealing with those organizational cul-de-sacs that are both frustrations and opportunities. Zazen seems to be as old as mankind; what is new today is its availability to the West, and specifically, its availability for dealing with the complex, multifaceted problems encountered in organizations. ”

~ The Author

Sometimes you see this with businesses where you or they want to implement a quick fix when there are problems or they want to jump on an opportunity when it arises. With Zazen, you absorb or make whole when tension comes about. This term from Steve Hagen in Buddhism is not what you Think. That is where the Creative Management comes into play. When you absorb, heal and make whole the tension, you are more at ease and you do from a place of being. The result is a higher level of creativity. You are not trying to fix things. You are creating with a real sense of the whole. This is not easy. We are such a doing society.