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The Beginner’s Mind: Reinventing Dental Practice for the Post-COVID-19 Future

Reinvention by Innovation Takes a Beginner’s Mind

I might be wrong.

You don’t have to believe me. 

This is just how I see it.

Since the future has not yet happened, anything is possible.  

You have the right to choose what you believe or not believe.

I’ve made my choice.

My belief is the dental practice of the past will not survive in the post-COVID-19 future.

For a dental practice to be successful, in my view, it must be reinvented. Reinvention is the action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new.

Reinvention requires innovation. Innovation is making changes in something established by introducing new methods, ideas or products. Innovation is best achieved with a beginner’s mind.

You can’t innovate from the past, nor can you exclude the past. You innovate from a future backward to the present, while honoring the past. 

By definition, having a beginner’s mind means having an attitude of openness, eagerness and freedom from preconceptions when approaching anything.

The beginner’s mind is the space where the mind does not know what to do. It is that state when you are sure of nothing, yet completely fearless, totally available to the moment. 

Most dentists and senior executives have difficulty attaining a beginner’s mind. They have been trained and enculturated to excel at learning, copying and replicating what others think and what others do. Certainly, they can improve upon it, but basically, it is an extension of what is already there – a past-based future.

Reinvention produced through innovation is not a past-based future; it is a future-based future - and that takes a beginner’s mind.

Prerequisites for Beginner’s Mind in Dental Practice

  • Reject a return to normal.
  • Decide the past will not succeed in the future.
  • Realize you need to revamp personnel to reinvent the practice.  A reinvented practice will need different talents and skillsets.
  • As a leader, be willing to be vulnerable, uncertain, transparent, exposed; this is the gateway to a beginner’s mind. You must leave your ego at the door.

Designing a Future in the Future

My recommendation is to inquire of yourself and the senior team: “What does a practice look like that delivers unparalleled safety, security and access?”  

  • What does the practice look like when it reemerges?
  • What should we keep? What should we discard?
  • Who should we keep? Who should we let go?
  • What equipment is needed to significantly increase safety – for patients, staff and doctors?
  • How should we physically restructure the practice? Both from a clinical and administrative perspective so people and staff experience greater safety.
  • How do I stagger patients, so there is far less human contact?
  • How do we expand trust in our relationships with patients and ourselves?
  • How do we become highly trained and developed to utilize teledentistry fully?
  • How do we best serve our patients during this time?
  • What protocols and processes should we put in place for patients entering and exiting the practice – digital, voice and in-office protocols?
  • What do I need to recognize, and then change in myself as a leader, to have my senior team be a united whole?

Beginning Group versus Mastermind Groups

In mastermind groups, it is assumed that someone has achieved some recognized level of mastery in a particular area or skill. This can come from inside the group, or they can find someone to speak to the group who has that mastery. The mastery is based on success and knowledge contained in the past. 

But the future we are heading into doesn’t exist yet, and therefore, we have no idea what it will look like, feel like and be like. We just don’t know. We are beginning as beginners.

But one opportunity of an unknown future, a future that has not yet happened, can be invented, e.g. Uber, Netflix, Grubhub. Those that can reinvent their practices will succeed. Those that take the action and invent processes through which the practice is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new will be the winners.

 

In my view, an unknown future cannot be master-minded; it needs to be (re)invented. And what works best in an unknown future, in reinventing a future that has not yet happened, is a beginner’s mind.

 

Of course, you don’t have to believe me.  


"Beginner Mind" is a Zen Buddhist term that describes moving past our assumptions and really seeing our surroundings with new eyes.”
                                                                  - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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