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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.


    Wisdom thinking

    Wisdom is your silent partner, governing which body of knowledge and relationships to pursue. Wisdom includes both the “doer” and the “deed,” while knowledge focuses only on the “deed.”

    The source of knowledge is learning, education, science, and reasoned and logical thought. The source of wisdom is self-knowledge, intuition and personal experience. Knowledge occurs in your head, while wisdom occurs in both your head, gut and heart.

    The path to wisdom is through self-discovery. Wisdom requires honest self-examination and self-reflection; assessment of your personal and family histories; understanding of your own and others’ priorities and values; knowing your strengths and weaknesses; and acknowledging your vulnerabilities. Wisdom is understanding there is no absolute and that life and business exist in fields of ambiguity. Wisdom knows there is no right answer.

    Read more: How to grow your dental practice in a competitive market

    In my experience, most dentist-entrepreneurs are obsessively focused on accumulating more and more knowledge. Each wants to be the “smartest person in the room.” It’s an illusion that the more they know, the more successful they will be. Knowledge alone does not generate access to people’s thinking and motivations. Knowledge alone does not provide access to the future, only to the past and the present. Wisdom provides access to the future.

    "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" — T.S. Eliot

    Wisdom is beyond what is known

    Thinking outside the box may be a cliché, but it’s essential to being wise. Wisdom moves beyond confronting a problem on its own terms — it surpasses the limitations of the problem. Wisdom creates new possibilities and generates more ideas and innovations; for example, imagine the wisdom of Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame.

    Wisdom understands that success is not dependent on the latest “winning formula,” and although it’s important to understand these formulas, it’s not sufficient. Wisdom realizes actual solutions are created, not copied.

    When people challenge themselves, disrupting established patterns, then wisdom can be obtained. Wisdom understands the phrase “beginner’s mind” because wisdom presses people to go even a little bit beyond what has already been done, venturing into new territory.

    “Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” – William Cowper

    Exclusivity of wisdom

    In our industry, as in the world, the wise are an exclusive group. Wisdom may not be difficult to attain, but any given industry tolerates only a small percentage of wise people. In the dental industry, if every professional embodied wisdom, wisdom wouldn’t exist. Wisdom involves challenging the industry’s conventions. Think of those who challenged the norm like Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson or Howard Schultz. Wisdom in many ways is revolutionary. Although most want to be wise, few make the necessary investment.

    “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!”  Proverbs 16:16


    In my work with dentist-entrepreneurs, who declare they intend to become CEOs, I listen to all the information they have accumulated — the facts, the data, their “truths” based on what they’ve learned and can recite. They are deeply knowledgeable about the business of group practice and have volumes of information about it. Their knowledge consists of facts, data, percentages and models they’ve acquired through study, research, investigation, observation and conversations. But this does not constitute wisdom, which is the “difference that makes the difference.”

    More from the author: The next big thing in dentistry is already here

    Wisdom is critical to CEO success. Accomplished CEOs can discern and judge which aspects of knowledge are true, right, lasting and applicable to their situation. They deftly apply wisdom to every facet of their business. They realize that wisdom is a much deeper kind of knowing; a knowing of the meaning and the reasons why something’s or someone’s value is beyond what its function is to fulfill. Knowledge understands the pieces, while wisdom understands the whole and can put the pieces together.

    Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” ― Albert Einstein

    Recommendations: Take the Wisdom Online Assessment

    To find out your level of wisdom, take this free test. I strongly suggest you be brutally honest and not try to figure out the “right” answer. How wise are you?

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


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