• Bryce Barrows

Pointing and Calling is rude but could it increase Productivity?


When I was around 5 years old, I remember seeing a man with a funny mustache. I pointed and told my mum, "See mum look at that funny man!". I remember my mother being extremely embarrassed over the whole incident and scolded me at the time. I was later told never to point at a person ever again; that it was extremely rude.

As I grew up I was told never to point in a person's direction or chastise them while doing so because when you point at someone there are 3 fingers pointing back at you. (Try pointing a finger and see the 3 lower fingers pointing back at you).

But what if pointing could save a life? What if pointing could make you more productive? Wouldn’t that be something?


Interestingly, I came across something that intrigued me in James Clears wonderful book “Atomic Habits”. In his book he mentioned that the MTA subway system in New York, used a process of pointing. In fact, the subway workers used this “Pointing” system when working to reduce the number of incidents on the Subway. The process involved the workers calling call out (mainly to themselves) whatever they were doing and ensuring they pointed at it at the same time. This protocol has actually decreased the number of incidents on the New York subway system by 57%.


This process was developed by the Japanese and a milder version was incorporated by the Americans. The system developed by the Japanese is called "Point and Call”. Again this too was used as a safety system to reduce the number of errors by their Railway Authority.

The process used in Japan is a little different as compared to the US. Everything is spoken out loud and pointed at. For example if a train operator is passing a signal which is green, he would say , “Signal is green”. If he hit a certain speed he would point and shout out that he is traveling at a certain speed. Although this system sounds absurd but importantly it has saved lives. In fact, this process has reduced errors by a whopping 85%. Looking at all major train accidents over the years,most of them have been due to human error, mostly on the part of the train operators.


We have seen multiple trains derailing because of the operator running the train way above their allocated speed limits and most of the time it's done unconsciously.

In certain parts of Asia we have seen train collisions happening because the operator missed a signal or perceived the signal to be the opposite of what it actually was. So the question at the end of the day is, what if they had to incorporate this process? Would we have ended up with much fewer accidents than we have encountered in the history of train travel?


The Japanese seem to have found the trick that works. In fact they have even taken this a

step further and are using this process throughout their train stations. This includes the train platforms, where the station master will shout and point when a train is arriving or departing. This also acts as a warning to passengers on the platforms to be cautious. The Porters and other staff working on the platform do the same. All play their part in ensuring maximum avoidance of incidences.


I’m sure all of you must be thinking, what does this have to do with me? I’m so glad you asked.


You see we are creatures of habit. Everything we do is based on some logic, mainly an encounter from before. Whether its driving, swimming, working, reading, writing, we all do these things on automatic. All of it is a byproduct of our habits. But what if we could do everything in the present with minimum error? In fact, what if we could do things better?

The answer is simple, incorporate what the Japanese do. No don’t have to scream things out loud (I’m sure if you do you’ll be carried off in a straight jacket) but make it a habit to at least speak the action you are doing under your breath. For e.g say something like “I am going to start working on this report.” or “I am working on an article on Pointing.”


The point is this, you are making yourself aware of what you are about to do. You are being present, being in the now. So many people from Eckhart Tolle, to Dr. Wayne Dyer to Deepak Chopra, all say the same thing, that we should be present when doing an activity, to be in the now, the practice of mindfulness.


Most of all the things we do are at a subconscious level formed by Habits. But what if we were more present at all times when doing everything? Being more present sometimes helps. We can't always leave everything to chance. The beauty is that this process also acts as a correction tool of sorts. For example, If I have the urge to check Facebook while working on a very important document, just by me saying, “I am going to check out Facebook” to myself will remind me that I still have work to do. It acts as a deterrent from procrastinating on a very important task at hand. This is an extremely important tool that we can use to get things done.


My wife and I have a friend who actually sings a song when he is about to leave his place. The song acts as a reminder so he does not leave anything important behind, may it be keys, his cell phone or anything else he needs to take with him.


So are you going to incorporate the process of pointing and calling to improve productivity? Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Just remember, the process has worked for a number of people so far, so why not you?

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