Archive for April, 2014

The moral of the story is… Look for the 18th horse

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

My brother Quentin, shared this story with me and I thought it worth sharing:-

“A farmer died leaving his 17 horses to his three sons.

When his sons opened up the Will it read:

My eldest son should get 1/2 (half) of total horses;
My middle son should be given 1/3rd (one-third) of the total horses;
My youngest son should be given 1/9th (one-ninth) of the total horses.
For those of you paying attention…… ½ of 17 = 8.5 horses, 1/3 of 17 = 5.66 horses, 1/9 of 17 = 1.88 horses = for a grand total of 16.04 horses

As it’s impossible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the three sons started to fight with each other.
So, they decided to go to a farmer friend who they considered quite smart, to see if he could work it out for them.

The farmer friend read the Will patiently, after giving due thought, he brought one of his own horses over and added it to the 17.
That increased the total to 18 horses.

Now, he divided the horses according to their fathers Will.

1/2 of 18 = 9. So he gave the eldest son 9 horses.
1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave the middle son 6 horses.
1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave the youngest son 2 horses.

Now add up how many horses they have:
Eldest son…9 which is more than the 8.50 that the father intended
Middle son…6 which is more than the 5.66 that the father intended
Youngest…2 which is more than the 1.88 that the father intended

Now this leaves one horse over, so the farmer friend takes his horse back to his farm.
Problem Solved!

The attitude of negotiation and problem solving is to find the 18th horse i.e. the common ground.
Once a person is able to find the 18th horse the issue is resolved. It is difficult at times.
However, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution.
If we think that there is no solution, we won’t be able to reach any!”

I’d take this a step further and say that you not only have to believe there is a solution but also that it is worth finding.  The solution has to be a win:win one otherwise it will only be temporary.  This means that you have to value the relationship and or person enough to keep exploring until there is one that works for both parties.  One barrier to finding a solution, is if you are invested in the current situation or impasse.  We have all met people who are martyrs and need to have a reason why their lives suck, or people who need someone to blame for their failures.  Sometimes, the 18th horse has to be looked for and isn’t necessarily brought round by some friendly neighbour.  However, one ‘trick’ is recognising the value of friendly ‘neighbours’ and making it clear that you would value some input, perspective and assistance.

I’d be interested in your examples of finding the 18th horse, so please do share them.

Round the World…

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Tomorrow my daughter returns from a 5 month long trip round the world.  She has been not just to places that she has never been before but also places nothing like anywhere that she has been before.  She has lived with different people in a different way; eaten strange foods and has had to get used doing without things she’d have taken for granted and been surrounded by all sorts of strange smells and sounds.  So she will arrive back home a changed person, and no doubt home will seem different from the place she remembered and the place that she left.  When she picks up her life, no doubt it will proceed differently as a result of these experiences.

This has a bearing on the change project you are working on or about to embark on.  If you are always deep in the middle of it you will be limited in what you can see and do.  This an area where an outside perspective can be helpful.  However, another tactic is to go back to a challenge you have shelved or half done with the benefit of more perspective.  This can be achieved also by rotating your teams between projects.  Things which where impossible before might now be do’able, and people and priorities change.

Phileas Fogg gained a day as he raced round the world in 80 days, time isn’t the only thing that changes when you go away and revisit something.  Maybe now is the time to dust off some old projects or issues and revisit them?

Some challenges are just a bit harder

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

They say / sing “Climb every mountain..” but perhaps you aren’t supposed to follow this advice if you happen to be a quadriplegic like Jamie Andrews.  15 years after losing his arms and legs through frostbite whilst climbing Mont Blanc, he decided to climb the Matterhorn, a mountain that is considered challenging to anyone.

I was listening to him discuss this today and was struck by his explanation of how he did this.  He said something along the lines of ‘Yes, it was a bit daunting but like all big challenges, you just break it down in to smaller steps’.  The thing is that many people and businesses want to make a change but it can seem so tough or so big that they don’t know where to start.  The thing to do is having established where you want to get to, is to start moving in that direction.  It is a cliché to say that the longest journey starts with the first step, but it is none-the-less true.  The trick is to keep on walking in that direction.  You will never know all the answers before you set off, nor  will you even know every difficulty that you will face.  You simply have to begin and knock down each obstacle as it comes along.

No matter what problem you are facing, it hardly likely to be bigger than Jamie’s, so perhaps it is time for you to set off too…

You can follow his journey.on Channel 5 on 4th April at 9pm.


  1. BBC