Why dentists are reluctant to change their minds

April 4, 2017
Dr. Marc Cooper

Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, corporate consultant, trainer, seminar director, board director, author, entrepreneur and inventor.Dr. Cooper has studied with masters in many disciplines, participated in formal business educational programs, and worked as an independent contractor with top-flight consulting companies. In 2011, Dr. Cooper was selected as a coach for the prestigious TED Fellows Program.The Mastery Company has been in existence since 1984. Dr. Cooper's client experience in dentistry includes solo private practice, small partnered practices, managed group practices and retail corporate enterprises. Dr. Cooper has worked with numbers of health care entities such as insurance companies, clearing houses, bio-technical companies and disease management companies, as well as the senior executives and boards of large hospitals and hospital systems and a number of their related physician groups. In addition, Dr. Cooper has worked with Silicon Valley start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. He has worked with dental clients in the U.S., U.K. Canada, Chile, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Israel.Dr. Cooper is author of eight successful books; Mastering the Business of Practice, Partnerships in Dental Practice, Running on Empty, SOURCE, Valuocity, Valuocity II, Valuocity III, and The Elder. His electronic newsletter reaches thousands of subscribers in 31 countries. Dr. Cooper also co-developed a suite of online dental practice management assessment tools.Dr. Cooper can be contacted at:info@masterycompany.com

Ignoring facts and evidence could negatively impact your dental practice.

A recent article in the New Yorker presents strong evidence why people don’t change their minds in the face of facts that are counter to what they believe. I’ve had this direct experience for many years with dentists in numbers of areas. I have always been intrigued why dentists don’t shift how they see their world and themselves in the face of overwhelming evidence that is plainly opposing what they understand. This article does a good job of explaining this phenomenon.

There are three areas in which I consistently find dentists unwilling to change their minds.   

One, most practicing dentists won’t change their minds about solo practice. The facts clearly demonstrate there are snowballing forces decreasing the asset value of solo practices: decreasing number of qualified buyers, increasing costs of practice operations and technologies, increasing competition, greater dominance of insurance companies, millennials’ attitudes toward ownership, fewer lending institutions willing to finance solo practice acquisitions, the extended tenure of existing practitioners and the impotence of dental political organizations. These are but some of the cascading forces hitting solo practice causing their numbers to steadily decline. Yet dentists still believe that solo practice will continue to succeed in the future.

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Second, dentists rebuff the obvious fact of the rapid growth of managed group practices/DSOs. Their numbers and strength are constantly growing. Managed groups can generate financing. They can hire professional executive managers. They have significant leverage in their negotiations with suppliers, labs and service organizations. Their marketing, reach and power is beginning to dwarf solo practices. In today’s vernacular, “they are killing it.” Most dentists insist this is an anomaly.

Third, the rejection of the notion that self-awareness is not key to successful leadership is clearly another area where the facts are denied. Although the literature and business experts all say the better one knows oneself, the better leader one makes, dentists repudiate this assertion. Dentists staunchly believe all they need is strategy and tactics to reach success. They have little appetite for self-discovery and self-examination. “If I have the right recipe, tip or pearl, then I will succeed” is their mantra, not, “The better I know myself, the better decisions I will make and the more productive and successful I will be.”

The facts could not be any clearer. Solo practices are shrinking at 7 percent per year due to their decline in negotiable and operational value to where they are less than 57 percent of the industry. Managed group practices/DSOs are increasing at 20 percent per year for the opposite reasons. And, the more self-aware you are, the more powerful and effective you are as a leader. 

My explanation for why dentists won’t change their minds is dentists would rather be “right” than happy.