Collective Intelligence and the Future of DentistryBy Jeffrey Bonk on August 20, 2021 | comments
Editor's Note: This article is the first in a series of interviews featuring insights from the Spear community and our Spear Talk forum moderators. Subscribe to Digest to be the first to hear about new interviews exploring social media, collaborative dentistry, clinical innovation and more as they are published.
Dentistry is in the grips of significant change and continued development. Dental materials and products, technological instrumentation, and the “Internet of Things” are providing new opportunities for us to improve restorative outcomes for our patients.
These are all good, necessary and effective additions to our practices and our daily treatment. Although these advancements fill important gaps for everyday patient care, there is still a much larger dimension of change impacting dentists today.
Consider the digital workflow, which has evolved to become an effective process for achieving predictable outcomes. Similarly, advancements in digital devices help dentists be more efficient, effective and productive with care. But the term “digital” includes more than just devices.
In my view, digital innovation is crucial for dentists to keep their practices strong, productive and current in the ways that matter. Innovation in digital technology impacts every facet of our practices, and I see this broader definition of “digital dentistry” quickly becoming the preferred avenue for all day-to-day practice approaches.
Whether it is patient communication through social media, cybersecurity to protect us from computer system shutdown and ransomware, or evolving and managing practice structure via Zoom meetings and teledentistry visits, the future of dentistry is here whether we are ready for it or not.
“Collective intelligence” and innovation
While there is value in the continued survey of dental journals, new materials and product changes that affect our everyday practice, this is simply is not enough to answer the most important questions facing dentists and dental practice owners today. How can dentists keep up?
In his book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki highlights intriguing evidence suggesting people in large groups are better informed and rational than a single member of the group1 – a phenomenon called “collective intelligence.” The concept is so compelling that even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) even opened the Center for Collective Intelligence to “understand collective intelligence at a deep level to be able to take advantage of the new possibilities it presents.”
Essentially, Surowiecki and MIT researchers argue that the key to innovation is collaborative problem-solving vs. individual expertise. Only through the “wisdom of the crowd” can we innovate for the future. What does this mean for the dental community?
Harnessing the collective intelligence of Spear Talk
To shed light on what matters most for dentists today, we are excited to announce a new series of articles exploring the future of dentistry. This series will build upon concepts and procedures that exist today and discuss “what's next” through conversations with our Spear Talk moderators.
Our moderators are highly experienced clinicians who facilitate discussions on Spear Talk, our doctors-only forum where doctors across the Spear community discuss challenges and share advice on team training, materials and techniques, practice management and much more.
This unique vantage point allows our moderators to not only see what's happening for dentists today, but also how clinicians today have found ways to adjust and prepare to meet those challenges head on.
Drawing on insights from the Spear community as well as each moderator's personal expertise, this series will capitalize on the power and collective intelligence of the Spear community and the Spear Talk platform by highlighting how doctors in the “real world” are adapting to what's next in the world of dentistry.
I look forward to exploring the future of dentistry with our Spear Talk moderators and the Spear community. Stay tuned for highlights of our Spear Talk moderators each month.
Jeffrey Bonk, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Resident Faculty.
- Surowiecki J. The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations. American Psychological Association. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-20179-000. Published 2004. Accessed August 6, 2021.