The Red Rubber Ball at Work

March 21, 2012

The age old question: Do you want to be successful beyond your wildest dreams? The unlikely solution: Incorporate play into every day. Kevin Carroll, author of The Red Rubber Ball at Work, said play is as critical to success and happiness as any other factor.

The age old question: Do you want to be successful beyond your wildest dreams?

The unlikely solution: Incorporate play into every day.

Kevin Carroll, author of The Red Rubber Ball at Work, said play is as critical to success and happiness as any other factor.

Carroll’s book is an entertaining and interesting collection of advice from a variety of successful people, including authors Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell and ESPN President George Bodenheimer. The 33 high-achievers profiled share experiences that illustrate how play contributes to success throughout life.

What play can teach you
When we were children, playtime was a time for fun. We would run, jump, explore and create for no reason other than pure pleasure. But as we played, we learned, whether we knew it or not.

Think back to the childhood games and activities that are most memorable to you. Now, think about what you learned. According to Carroll, you likely learned one or more of the following: inventing, analyzing, innovating, socializing, planning, problem solving, decision making or risk taking.

Of those skills, how many are necessary for success in dentistry? We learned the basics in childhood, but in our ever changing profession, the learning never ends. To keep these skills sharp, we need play more than ever.

Learn from the best
How do we make dentistry fun? How do we tap into the power of play? We can start by taking lessons from a few of Carroll’s “productive players”:

Seth Godin, the world-famous author, speaker and entrepreneur,  grew up playing a board game called Diplomacy. During those playtimes he learned to anticipate change and to improvise. To this day he approaches challenges as he would a game of Diplomacy, using the skills he learned as a child to excel in an arena fraught with competition. The trick: He feels as if he’s just playing.

Dentists can take a page from Godin’s playbook, so to speak, when it comes to insurance reimbursements and patient treatment plans. We are (or should be) constantly anticipating change and improvising in these areas, which are common sources of complaint on DentalTown and other forums. By turning a challenge into a game and keeping score, we can play our way to success.  

Try a little experimentation to discover new answers. Emily Crumpacker is a chef who gets excited about finding new ways to combine ingredients. She grew up doing this with her grandmother, who always made it a game. No matter how it turned out they had something new and tasty, and had fun doing it.

Try Crumpacker’s approach to that patient who needs comprehensive care but is too scared, can’t afford it, or just doesn’t want to do it. Let the staff get involved in tossing around ideas.  Come up with phased approaches or treatment options that can be a win-win for everyone. As you improvise and imagine the possibilities, you and your team will find greater satisfaction daily.

Mel Young, founder of the Homeless World Cup, uses his love of soccer to teach homeless people the power of teamwork. Growing up he wasn’t the best soccer player, but he found that with lots of practice he could excel at one thing: the accuracy of his kicks. This specialization led him to become a team leader.  

Teamwork is something we constantly struggle with in dentistry. But if each individual excels in one area, the team as a whole can perform amazingly-while having fun!

It’s play time
The Red Rubber Ball at Work concludes with questions designed to get readers thinking about the value of play. Here are a few:
What were your favorite games as a child?
What did those games teach you?
How does your work mimic the way you played?
What is fun about the job you have?
Use these as I have to uncover possibilities for play that can help you and your team make every day fun, successful and joyful.

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The Benchmark column is written by the directors of the ACDE, an alliance of practicing clinicians dedicated to progress in dentistry. The ACDE advises dental companies on product development and marketing, and provides PACE-approved high-level continuing education. Visit theacde.com, or contact Molly Thompson at info@theacde.com.
 

Jason Luchtefeld, DMD, FAGD, FICOI, is the ACDE’s Director of Research. He lectures nationally on dental implants and quality-of-life issues, and presents cases on Dentaltown.com. He practices full-time in Robinson, Ill., integrating all aspects of general dentistry into his practice.