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    Why wisdom is critical to dentist CEO success

    Most dentist-entrepreneurs focus on accumulating knowledge, but wisdom is the secret to a successful future.

    Many dentist-entrepreneurs are earnestly engaged in building large managed group practices. They believe the more knowledge they can amass, the more success they will experience as a CEO.

    They religiously go to numerous programs about the business of group practice and attend the heavily touted industry conferences. They hire and listen to reputable pundits and advisers. They engage in frequent discussions with their peers. They read books like “Traction” and “Scaling Up.” They have an unquenchable thirst for more and more knowledge. 

    They believe the greater the tonnage of knowledge, the greater their success. Regrettably, it doesn’t always work - you need more than knowledge.

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    Dentist-entrepreneurs stalwartly strive to accumulate more data and more information on running their business: “What’s the optimal corporate model and its infrastructure? Who and when do I hire? How do I generate my third round of financing? What are the best KPIs, the best SOPs?” They invest heavily in IT and swim with the data currents. They always seek to know more. They need more and better data and more robust software so they can do their spreadsheets and relate their data.

    But success still eludes them. Why? Because they lack wisdom. Knowledge will only get you so far. Knowledge is not the same as wisdom — not even in the same ballpark. Without wisdom, these very smart professionals eventually flatline, falter or fail. You can’t get there without wisdom.

    “Knowledge is flour, but wisdom is bread.” - Austin O'Malley

    Wisdom and knowledge: The difference

    Wisdom and knowledge are both recurring themes in business and spiritual literature. Wisdom and knowledge are related but not synonymous. The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right or lasting.” Knowledge is “information gained through experience, reasoning or acquaintance.” Knowledge can exist without wisdom — you can be knowledgeable without being wise.

    Knowledge is knowing what to say, while wisdom is not only knowing what to say but how and when to say it. Wisdom is understanding the person you’re speaking with at both an intellectual and emotional level. Wisdom fosters intuitive astuteness of who others are and how best to communicate with them. Knowledge listens to what is said to add to the repertoire of information and data. Wisdom hears this as well, but wisdom also hears why the person is saying it.

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    Wisdom enables hearing the implicit, not solely the explicit. Wisdom enables a listening beneath the words. Knowledge listens from only a factual level, to add to what it already knows, while wisdom listens both factually and empathetically.

    Knowledge is about facts, data and information acquired through study, research, investigation, observation or experience. Wisdom is the ability to distinguish and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right and lasting.

    People typically define knowledge as the confident understanding of a subject that has the potential to be used for a specific purpose. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to make correct judgements and decisions.

    “The man of knowledge believes only half of what they hear, a wise man knows which half.”   – Roshi Suzuki

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    Dr. Marc Cooper
    Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, ...


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