Mediation: Thinking Outside The Box

The need to “think outside the box” or be creative in mediating settlement negotiations is reinforced in mediation training courses, and many examples are used to illlustrate the point. Here is a variation of one of the more clever ones.

A man left seventeen camels to his three sons, and indicated the oldest son should get half, the middle son a third and the youngest son a ninth. The sons were preplexed – 17 cannot be divided by 2, 3 or 9. So, they sought help from a wise old woman, who said to them, “See what would happen if you also got one of my camels.” They did as she suggested, and figured half of 18 camels would be 9 camels, a third 6 camels and a ninth 2 camels, and lo and behold 9+6+2=17 camels – problem solved! From Ury, Getting Past No (Bantam Dell 2007 ed.), at p. 159.

(Another solution would of course have been to agree to round up each of the remainders to the next highest whole number as they divided the 17 camels by 2, 3 and 9, but not as clever or as much fun.)

Leave a Reply