By Jon Miller | Post Date: September 23, 2004 9:51 PM | Comments: 6
I came across an interesting article while riding the bullet train in August during our last Japan Kaikaku Experience (Lean study trip). On page 69 of the September 2004 of Wedge magazine (Vol. 16 No. 9) there was an article by science writer Hideaki Fukami on the origins of the counterclockwise direction of athletic fields (baseball fields, track fields) and how they came to be so. There I found the reason why my kaizen sensei insisted on designing work cells and work flow counterclockwise.
According to Fukami there is a scientific reason for the standard counterclockwise flow of race tracks. He explains that in the 1896 Athens Olympics, the tracks were actually clockwise. However, due to complaint from the athletes that it felt unnatural, it was changed to "left hand inside" or counterclockwise in 1913. Was this just a feeling, or did it actually affect the athletes' performance?
Fukami conducted an experiment by having 4 university track athletes run the 400 meter both clockwise and counterclockwise. The results of the average times were 58.62 for clockwise and 56.52 seconds for counterclockwise. More than 2 seconds difference!
Fukami further explores various examples of "left hand inside" phenomena in the article. One interesting examples of the findings of his research is that 80% of fleeing criminals fled to the left, according to the Hyogo Prefecture Police. Arrests rose by 60% when the number of police officers pursuing the fleeing criminal from the left were increased.
One of the strongest reasons given for the innate "left hand inside" preference for human motion comes from brain science. According to a Professor Matsumoto, since the right brain processes spatial recognition human perception of space is stronger through the left side of vision (the hemispheres of the brain control opposite sides of the body). When you are running "left hand inside" or counterclockwise, you have better visibility of space on the left side and you are able to run more comfortably, confidently, and quickly.
Interestingly enough, Matsumoto points out that amusement rides that are designed to terrify tend to be clockwise, putting human visual spatial perception at a disadvantage and increasing your fear and discomfort. The merry-go-round, which is not designed to make you afraid is... you guessed it, counterclockwise.
So, Lean Champion, the next time you're challenged about the direction of the flow of the cell, and location of chucks on lathes, right-handedness, and "sensei said so" doesn't cut it, you can explain it using brain science.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.