A new academic paper finds that tinkering by British nerds effectively triples the nation’s private-sector R&D budget in consumer products. The time we…

“spent making and improving products was more than twice as large as the amount spent by all British firms combined on product research and development over a three-year period. … The types of product modifications and innovations that Mr. von Hippel’s group found among the nearly 1,200 people surveyed ranged from the most elementary to the complex. One woman coloured two halves of a clock dial different shades to teach her children how to tell time; a man concocted a device made from a fishing rod and a large hook to trim his treetops; another reprogrammed his GPS unit to make it easier to use and tailored to his needs.”