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2.6. Simple Science in Non-science


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 2. Simple Science > 2.6. Simple Science in Non-science

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Invention happens in very non-scientific areas. You can invent new processes, business strategies or social systems for how people interact and work together. Happily, the four simple science principles work just as well in these arenas.


Energy in human situations often translates into effort, enthusiasm and persistence. Some tasks are just boring, which is a low energy mental state. Inventing with energy in social situations could means finding ways to make things more interesting and exciting, so the unsatisfying energy of pushing people into action is eliminated as the pull of enthusiasm is created.

Whenever we act, we use energy. Can you think of times when you waste energy? Travelling to work is a big waste for many people. The internet could provide opportunities to work on-line from home, or perhaps from a local all-purpose office where you can rent space, phones, photocopiers etc.

Sometimes we would like to use more energy, such as when we are exercising. Charity marathons are social inventions that help people to exercise together and also feel good about helping those less able than ourselves.


Things are matter. Inventing with matter means thinking about the tangible things we use. Non-material invention is more about how we use things, rather than creating those things. For example, I could invent a new way of constantly backing up my computer, perhaps by writing a program that transmits what I type, as I type it, to a remote computer. Then, even if my house explodes, my work will not be lost!

There are also various forms of ‘virtual matter’ around which you can invent. These are the intangible things, such as money, computer programs and customer satisfaction, which are nevertheless very real and worthy of significant attention.


How well do you make use of the space around you? Do you have a loft full of useless rubbish? How about your garden: is it well laid out? We have three dimensions in which to play, although we sometimes only use two. A well laid-out garden uses all dimensions well. Living well includes making good use of the spaces we have available to us.

Space is often a critical factor in organisations, where office space is measured in cost per square foot. Saving space or making better use of it is a high value activity. Moving things and people (i.e. travelling) are also about space and can be very expensive. Space innovations can be about the movement of stock and parts or about the geographic positioning of facilities, for example in relation to customers and suppliers.

Other attributes of space can also be used in non-scientific inventions. Organisations have shape, functionally, geographically and in other ways. They have boundaries at which interactions occur with outsiders. You can even use physical metaphors for social effects, for example the ‘texture’ of a company might describe its culture (‘Are we bristly when we should be smooth?’).


Time is the one thing that all people have in equal measure, although we do not all use it in the same way. For busy people, saving time is critical. For those at leisure, the enjoyment of time is more important. Many service industries are founded on around time-oriented inventions.

‘Time is money’ is a common saying, but it is more true than many realise. We give our time to an employer, who gives us money. We can then spend that money to save our own time on activities like growing and cooking food. A trick to invent around is the speed at which these conversions happen. I would like to make money quickly, but spend it slowly.

Many situations can be changed by altering when things happen, and for how long they happen. Undesirable things, such as cutting the grass, may be put off or done less often. Desirable things may be done at a time when we are relaxed and more able to appreciate them.

Doing things at the same time allows bad things to be completed at once or good things to be intensified, such as theatres have combined with restaurants to extend an evening’s pleasure. Or we can spread things out or book concerts months ahead so we can look forward to them for a longer time.

In combination, these four simple science principles can be very useful. For example, we can consider how time may be traded off against space, or how things may be done using less energy. When we are concerned with how and when things are moved, and the time factors involved, we are using all four simple science principles.

New investment methods could be invented by considering how money may be automatically moved around, over time, in the virtual space of world banking systems. Looking at how and when people meet, and the energies of their interactions, could improve whole societies.

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