Are You Identifying the Wrong Issues?


In his excellent book, What’s Your Problem by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, he quotes a Science article way back from 1890 written by Thomas C. Chamberlain, which states:

“The mind lingers with pleasure upon the facts full happily into the embrace of the theory, and feels a natural coldness towards those that seem refractory period instinctively there is a special searching out of phenomena that support it, for the mind is led by its desires.”

In his research, Wedellsborg expands upon the idea of how only having one single hypothesis causes confirmation bias. Instead, you should create multiple hypotheses, to inoculate yourself against the danger of a single perspective. Only having one explanation creates a dangerous path where you are destined to fall in love with your theory. Doing so can cause you to spend much time, effort, finances and mental energy barking up the wrong tree.

In order to reframe the problems, he suggests:

  • Never commit to just one explanation in the beginning.
  • Explore multiple explanations at the same time until sufficient data and testing have provided enough evidence for the best choice.
  • Be open to the idea that your solution may be a mix of multiple reasons.
  • Be OK with walking away from your idea if something better shows up.

As practice owners, we don’t want to deal with problems. We want to do dentistry. I completely get it. Yet in reality, we have to deal with them every day. If you cannot accept that and deal with it, you will continually struggle and your growth will be stunted.

For years I assumed that when something didn’t work out in the practice, it was because I had the wrong people assigned to the responsibility or that I needed to recruit a new team member to fill this new role.

While this can and does happen, the bigger “a-ha” is usually related to really thinking through the source of the issue.

Some examples include:

  • If your practice is running inefficiently or always behind with patients, do you need to hire another assistant, or are your systems and organization the big problem? Are you allowing late patietns to dictate your schedule? Or is your team unprepared?
  • If your patients are paying late and you have lots of “bad AR,” what is really happening? Is it because patients are not paying at, or before the time of service? Is it because your patients really don’t want to pay you, or is it because you have a lack of financial, billing and AR guidelines in place?
  • If you aren’t taking home the income you want, is that the fault of your patients and team, or is it because you haven’t identified what you need to change personally to make this happen?

As Deepak Chopra wrote in his book, :

“Denial defends blindness” and “only when we admit the truth does the behavior completely end.”

Owning a practice is a big job. But it Can be fun and very rewarding both professionally and financially when things are running smoothly. Your job is to create repeatable systems, and cast the vision for growth and culture in your practice. Then hire people who can make creative decisions and bring solutions to the table to help you get there.

Many of us are Type A personalities, who often go the extra mile and work hard, but this can also be the cause of micromanagement and not letting your team members have the autonomy they need to do their jobs. As Chopra continued in his book referenced above, “control is the great mask of insecurity.”

The question for you to ponder this weekend is:


What’s holding you back? Grab a paper and pen and get started. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with my writing out your thoughts and coming up with your working solutions.

If you would like to receive a free chapter from my new book: The Owner’s Guide to a Productive Dental Practice: 7 Pillars Every Dentist Needs to Grow in the New Economy, simply send me an email at and put “Friday Finish Free Book Chapter” in the subject line.

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