Earlier this month, Ryosuke and I sat in on a business class at Ashesi University (one of the only liberal arts universities in Africa).
We’ve been doing this a lot recently, which has made both of us realize how much we miss being in school.
Getting a Masters (or PhD) has always been in my life plan, perhaps starting 5-10 years down the road, and Ryosuke has never been interested in higher education… but both of us are a little drunk on knowledge right now. We’ve done a lot of talking (and dreaming) of what it would be like to start looking at Masters programs for both of us in Japan.
Anyway, moving on.
The theme of the class we sat in on was “negotiation.”
And at the end of the class, the professor told a story:
Two boys came across an orange one day. Both of them wanted the orange and argued bitterly over who would get it.
“I saw it first!” One of them argued.
“I am your elder, you should respect me!” Countered the other.
After a couple rounds, they decided to split the orange down the middle. Satisfied with the outcome, each took their half and waked away.
The first boy ate his half of the orange basking in the cool shade of a nearby tree. When he finished, he tossed the peel near the roots and returned home.
The second boy took his half of the orange to his home on the other side of town and gave it to his mother. She squeezed out a bit of the pulp and grated the peel for an orange pastry they were making for dinner.
With no use for the rest of the fleshy orange, she fed it to their goat.
This is the purpose of negotiation. Or effective negotiation, I should say. Because while both boys technically split the orange fairly, each of them could have gotten more of what they really wanted if they had negotiated effectively. One boy could have walked away with no peel and most of the inside of the inside of the delicious, fleshy orange; the other could have walked away with all the peel and a sliver of the orange for the cake.
Real life is complicated. The “just split it in half” solution is rarely the best outcome for an splitting resources or responsibilities.
Basically, when you’re dealing with another person, with unknown needs, resources, skills, and goals, make sure you figure out what their priorities are before making a deal.