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#91—Thales Teixeira: Decoupling the Customer Value Chain for Competitive Advantage

#91—Thales Teixeira: Decoupling the Customer Value Chain for Competitive Advantage

Thales Teixeira the co-founder of digital disruption consultancy Decoupling (, and previously the Lumry Family Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, where he taught for 10 years. There he has taught MBA, doctoral and executive-level courses in Marketing Models, Digital Marketing and E-commerce. His two primary domains of research constitute Digital Disruption and The Economics of Attention.

He is the author of dozens of articles published in trade press outlets such as The Harvard Business Review, The McKinsey Quarterly, Think with Google, and in academic journals such as Marketing Science, JMR, JM, and JAR. His research and opinions have been routinely featured in The NY Times, The Financial Times, among others.

In his most recent book, Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption, he dives into his concept of decoupling—the idea that what drives disruption is not technology or new innovations, but the ability to identify and create solutions in the links along the customer value chain. We dig into this concept in its implications in this episode, including:

In this episode, he shares:

  • His definition of the customer value chain —and where it really starts and ends, contrary to what we traditionally have thought

  • How disruption is not as much about competitors as it is about understanding the customers’ point of view

  • How startups often create disruption by learning how to target weaknesses in the customer value chain neglected by incumbent organizations

  • And how incumbent organizations can stay competitive by beating others to disrupting their own value chain—even those not heavily invested in technology


Episode Timeline:

00:00—Highlight from today's episode

00:52—Introducing Thales + The topic of today’s episode

2:41—If you really know me, you know that...

2:29—What is your definition of strategy?

6:55—Could you share your definition of disruption with us?

8:09—Could you explain how your work led you to one of your most central principles of decoupling?

12:03—What exactly constitutes the customer value chain, and how is it different than the customer journey?

14:24—Could you share an example of a company that has decoupled and disrupted a customer value chain?

16:27—Could we dive into how Best Buy effectively decoupled their service offering?

18:05—How did Airbnb target a narrow type of customer in a value chain to start their business?

22:30—What should an incumbent do in these decoupling instances, and what do they get wrong?

26:23—How can people follow you and connect with you to continue learning from you?

24:23—How can people follow you and connect with you to continue learning from you?


Additional Resources:

Decoupling United Company Page:

Newest Book:



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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.