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Looking For An 18th Camel: The Best Outcome For All


We often see negotiations as if we are entering a battle. Always looking to defeat the other parties’ terms. Perhaps we should look to find a Win-Win solution instead, that would benefit both parties and foster a long running relationship. We thought we’d share this story that explains this concept well.

A father left 17 camels in his Will as assets for his three sons. When the father passed away, his sons opened the Will.

The Will stated the eldest son should get half of the 17 camels, while the middle son should be given 1/3rd (one-third) and 
the youngest son should be given 1/9th (one-ninth) of the 17 camels.

As it is not possible to exactly divide 17 into halves or 17 by 3 nor 17 by 9, 
the sons began to fight with each other and decided they should go to a wise man to help find a solution.

 The wise man listened patiently to an account of the Will and its contents.

 After giving the problem some thought, he brought a camel of his own and added it to the 17, thus increasing the total to 18 camels.

Going by the contents of the deceased father’s Will:

Half of 18 = 9, so he gave the eldest son 9 camels;

1/3rd of 18 = 6, so he gave the middle son 6 camels; and

1/9th of 18 = 2, so he gave the youngest son 2 camels.

Adding it all up: 9 plus 6 plus 2 is 17, leaving one camel, which the wise man took back himself.

Moral: The aim of negotiation and problem solving is to find an 18th camel – a common ground. Once common ground is found, the issue can be resolved.

It can be difficult at times. However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe there is a solution.

If we presume there is no solution; we will never be able to find any!

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