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I work with leaders who have both the will and the wherewithal to deal with the uncertain COVID-19 future successfully. How do I know these leaders will be successful? I know because they know how to ask the right questions, in the right way, at the right time.

Asking the right questions in the right way allows these leaders to evoke new thinking. These questions, when answered, promote revelations and insights and illuminate what actions to take next.

Part of the leader’s questioning skill-set is knowing how to listen when people speak. Leaders who will succeed in the future listen in a way that others don’t. They listen with understanding that the future ultimately lives in other people's speaking – which directly shapes the questions they ask. They listen to discover and learn, which shapes their questions. They probe. They search. They investigate.

These leaders also know how to connect with colleagues and peers beyond the confines of their business and industry. They ask probing questions unrelated to the specific problem they are working on – knowing the answers from another dimension may open doors to solving their problem.   

The kind of questions asked, and the type of Q & A engagement is designed as an inquiry. In an inquiry, the type of questions asked and the way people listen is unique and powerful. A well-conducted inquiry is the key to the seemingly locked doors of discovery. When opened, those doors lead to creative solutions.

But the inquiry must take into account the facts. How do you generate a practice(s) where the financials below are the facts?

Now what?

Reassess – The First Step to Reinventing

How will you design a dental practice that is down 66 percent for the remainder of 2020 and down 32 percent in 2021? 

What do you keep? What do you discard? What do you have to change? Personnel? Procedures? Hours of operation? Equipment? Systems? Structures? Technology? Patient flow?

What new gear do you need to purchase now to upgrade the scope of safety for staff and patients? How are you going to pay for these purchases?

What kind of modified PPE will you be regulated to wear and who will manage that inventory in your enterprise? How much more will that cost?

Who will be accountable for the not-yet, but coming soon, OSHA regulations around your PPE gear, and upgraded sterility of the patients and operators? 

Given the practice will severely contract, how will you keep the practice functioning, cover its costs and still provide yourself with enough personal income?

Given none of these questions have yet to be answered, answers backed by evidence and reproducibility, how do you figure out what to do?

My assertion is you have to become innovative because you can’t copy what isn’t there. No one has figured out the future yet.


Ordinarily, the pattern of adopting any change occurs within a particular model, the Everett Rogers’ Adoption Curve.

The future we are headed into will significantly accelerate the speed of volatile change. By the time the change reaches the late majority and laggards adoption stage, it will have already changed again – they’ll never catch up. And as the speed of change accelerates, even more, the early adopters and the early majority will be late to the party.

What future success is calling for is the capacity to innovate – the ability to make changes in something established by introducing new methods, ideas or products.

Innovation takes a different kind of thinking to occur. How we approach inciting innovation with our clients, to stimulate their ability for innovative thinking, is by inquiry.

An inquiry is any process that has the aim of augmenting knowledge, resolving doubt or solving a problem. In our consulting work, we use the Socratic method of inquiry.

The Socratic method of inquiry is a form of cooperative dialogue between two or more individuals. It is based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying, often unexamined, presuppositions. Underlying presuppositions about how dentistry is delivered, about themselves as leaders and managers, and of those around him or her.

The Socratic method searches for the general personally held truths that shape a leader’s beliefs and scrutinizes their beliefs to determine their consistency with other beliefs.

The Socratic method, when well-conducted, leads to insights, what Steve Jobs called “simple,” about the true nature of those things being examined. Insight, the Steve Jobs “simple,” opens the door to innovation. And what will win in the post-COVID-19 future is innovation.

“Simple can be much harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains.”

            -Steve Jobs


We invite you to check out Dr. Cooper’s newest offering, Wisdom Councils: Beginner Mind Groups.

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