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The human hand as a business model

Earlier today, I found an interesting article on BusinessWeek.com about global business and it’s comparison with … the human hand. Choosing the human hand as a model for global economy seems very simple but I believe it’s an interesting approach that has a lot of truth in it. The author is Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo‘s President and CFO. She wrote her speech for the graduation ceremonies at the Columbia UNiversity’s Business School on May 15.

Nooyi’s vision is that every finger on a human hand (5 for most of us) represents a country or region that has an influence in wordwide economy. As each finger has a specific task, she believes that each country has a strenght and economic position of it’s own. The hand itself being the sum of all fingers while none of them considers itself being less or more important then another. I recommend you to read the full article here but will give you a short explanation for each finger.

  1. Our little finger: Africa
    Not because of it’s size, but because of it’s place on the world’s stage? From an economic standpoint, Africa has yet to catch up with her sister continents. And yet, when our little finger hurts, it affects the whole hand.
  2. Our thumb: Asia
    Strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world’s economic stage.
  3. Our index / pointer finger: Europe
    Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.
  4. Our ring finger: South America, including Latin America
    The ring finger symbolizes love and commitment to another person. Both Latin and South America are hot, passionate, and filled with the sensuous beats of the mambo, samba, and tango: three dances that — if done right — can almost guarantee you and your partner will be buying furniture together.
  5. The long, middle finger: North America, in particular the United States
    The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out.

Her conclusion?

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.

My conclusion?
Nooyi has a great view on how the United States fit in (or don’t actually) today’s world. She figured out that there’s no single finger less or more important than any other. She’s the right woman at the right place (PepsiCo being a global company) because she’s smart enough to coöperate with the 4 other fingers to reach a common goal. Nooyi’s vision as a new reference in global economics? Why not …

[Note: The original version of this article has been posted on my previous weblog, in 2005]

By Kris

Hi folks! Running around on this globe for over 40 years now, this weblog is a way to share some things and thoughts with you.

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