Pepsi’s “Middle Finger” CFO To Become CEO

Ordinarily the news that PepsiCo Chief Financial Officer and president Indra Nooyi will become the company’s new CEO in October would hardly merit a mention here, but Nooyi was blogosphere fodder last year with a commencement address Columbia University. Nooyi is the Pepsi executive who ignited a bit of a blogstorm in 2005 by referring the the US as giving the “middle finger” to the rest of the world.

Here’s the interesting portions of her May 15, 2005 commencement address at Columbia Business School Graduation [PDF]:

This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War I.

However, if used inappropriately – just like the U.S. itself — the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I’m talking about. In fact, I suspect you’re hoping that I’ll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I’m not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor – I think I’ll pass.

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. – the long middle finger – must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand … not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. – the middle finger – sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand – giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers – but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

…So, remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you’re giving a hand – not the finger. You will help your country, your company, and yourself, more than you will ever know.

Nooyi’s “clarification” is gone from the Pepsi site, but as I recall she maintained that her analogy was misconstrued…

Pepsi President Gives MBA Grads The Finger – [Wizbang]

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