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#12—David Duncan: Understanding Customers through a Detective Lens

#12—David Duncan: Understanding Customers through a Detective Lens

Along with a varied background with a degree in psychology from Duke and a PdD in Physics from Harvard, David Duncan has also worked at career at McKinsey & Company, then Innosight, and collaborated with Clayton Christensen on Competing Against Luck. This has given him a systems perspective and the ability to really understand customers from a unique lens.

He is also the co-author of two other books and a number of influential articles, including a groundbreaking book which introduced a simple yet profound idea: customers don’t buy products and services; they hire them to do a job. Building a Growth Factory," co-authored with Scott Anthony, and the Harvard Business Review articles, “Knowing When to Reinvent” and “Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days."

In this episode, David discusses with Kaihan why so many companies, business leaders, and strategists mistake the reasons their customers buy from them, and why this can be fatal, why focusing on jobs to be done can help you avoid this trap, and why you should start with “small data” before your you get to “big data."


"Because oftentimes, the most useful aspects of [customer] conversations are unexpected, and they ramble around a little bit, often into the rambling that leads to the greatest insights. And when you see one done well, it often seems a little chaotic and even not that helpful until you learn the underlying principles that were guiding the interview, and that were guiding the insights that they got out of it. "

-David Duncan


Episode Timeline:

00:00—Introducing David Duncan + The topic of today’s episode

2:02—If you really know me, you know that...

2:39—What got you interested in strategy?

4:32—What is your definition of strategy?

6:14—You come at problems with this multi-point solution look, can you tell us a little bit about that?

10:03—Explain to us the concept of your new book, The Secret Lives of Customers

12:30—Writing the book in an unorthodox format from a detective's perspective

16:12—Thinking of customers in the concept of "jobs to be done"

17:25—Big data versus qualitative research

19:10—How to connect with David


Additional Resources:

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The Outthinkers podcast is a growth strategy podcast hosted by Kaihan Krippendorff. Each week, Kaihan talks with forward-looking strategists and innovators that are challenging the status quo, leading the future of business, and shaping our world.