Once upon a time, a rich merchant died leaving 17 boxes
of jewels for his three sons. The merchant left a note, on
which was written that the first son got 1/2, the second son
got 1/3, and the third son got 1/9 part of the 17 boxes.
The sons wondered why their father left such a strange
note, as 17 boxes could not be divided by 2 or 3 or 9. This
created a problem. They argued among themselves as to
who will have how many boxes. The problem could not be
resolved and they went to a wise man for consultation.
The wise man brought his own box of jewels and added
it to the 17 boxes. Then the wise man said, “Now, there are
18 boxes. Half of 18 is 9, so the first son gets 9 boxes. One-third
of 18 is 6, so the second son gets 6 boxes. One-ninth
of 18 is 2, so the third son gets 2 boxes.”
The first son got 9 boxes, the second son got 6 boxes,
and the third son got 2 boxes. Adding up 9 + 6 + 2 was
equal to 17, which made up the total 17 boxes of jewels. The
18th box was the box of the wise man, which he kept with
himself. The wise man had added his own box of jewels, so
that it may serve as a common ground to solve the problem.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time: 100 Management Stories” by Rajen Jani