July 15, 2020

167 | How to Leverage Customer Development for User Insight – with Steve Blank

We discuss customer development in existing markets versus new markets, how those journeys are different, the potential dangers of data in consumer insight, and some fun stories from Silicon Valley along the way.

Joining us is the Father of Modern Entrepreneurship, Steve Blank, who is credited with launching the Lean Startup movement. Most of you listening are probably already familiar with Steve’s work, and as you might expect, he has some fantastic insights to share. Steve also shares his thoughts on why capitalism is a bad tool to use to address problems related to social justice (or social anything) and what the greater tech and startup communities can do to address the root of racial and social injustice.


Steve talks about "getting out of the building" in entrepreneurial success. Where did this idea for customer discovery come from?

  • After Steve retired, he started to reflect on his career and began to write a series of “lessons learned” stories that he thought would become his memoirs. In putting these lessons down on paper, he discovered a series of patterns behind what made some startups succeed. These takeaways became the foundation of Customer Development.
  • “Startups that do what their investors tell them to do — simply write a business plan, get funding, and then execute — tend to fail more than the people who throw that rulebook out.” Startups can’t use the same business models and practices established by huge corporations.
  • So, if you want insight into your users, go talk to them!

Customer data... with no insight?

  • This is a common problem that companies of all sizes run into: they have a bunch of data on their customers’ behavior, but that data doesn’t necessarily give them any insights into what their customers want.
  • Steve says this isn’t a failing of analysis or data collection — it’s a failure of leadership.
  • If you’re looking for insight, you don’t outsource it… if you’re the leader and you’re not the one out of the building, then you might as well forget it. It’s not worth it.”
  • “Customer discovery is not a giant focus group... It requires the authority to make a decision on the spot.”




Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, and SoundCloud to listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser. You can download The Innovation Engine’s dedicated iOS app from the Apple Podcasts App store, and you can subscribe to receive new episodes in your inbox each time one is published.