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The Power of Three December 8, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in Why We Buy.
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I greatly enjoyed Paco Underhill’s Why We Shop and jotted down a ton of notes as I read through it. After I was done and went to synthesize what I read, I was drawn to something the author wrote at the end of book — that his life’s work of observing customer buying habits and making recommendations wasn’t always linear or straightforward, but was a blend of physical science, social science and art. I found this trinity to be a useful way of approaching a number of problems and something I’ve thought about since then.

For Underhill, the Physical Science of shopping concerned the type of work that we would encouter in a basic MBA Operations class: service/handle times, queueing theory, etc.  This work was quite tangible and generally easy to understand. Underhill also drew on social science disciplines such as psychology, anthropology and sociology as he sought to climb into the mind of customers and understand why they did what they did. Finally, he emphasized that there was a true art to what he did. At the end of the day, not everything could be quantified, easily understood or duplicated — it took singular creativity and touch.

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