“Fixed-pie thinking” is the fallacy that for one person to get a bigger slice of pie, others have to get less. Mediators often use the phrase “expand the pie” to convey the idea that good problem-solving pushes us to think past fixed-pie assumptions. Here’s a fun little story about expanding the pie.
Jay Rothman, the author of Resolving Identity-Based Conflict in Nations, Organizations, and Communities, tells this story:
A Middle Eastern man died, leaving 17 camels to his three sons. The first son was to receive 1/2, the second son was to receive 1/3, and the third son was to receive 1/9.
They were unable to figure out how to divide the camels fairly. After arguing among themselves, they consulted a wise old woman for a solution to this difficult problem.
She offered to lend them her one camel. Of the now 18 camels, the first son took 9, the second took 6, and the third son took 2.
One camel remained, so the sons gave it back to the woman.