Perseverance of Beliefs.

Perseverance of Beliefs.

In the 1980s, Ross and Lepper published the seminal work on the perseverance of beliefs. This is the tendency for people to continue to believe something is true even when it is revealed to be false or disproved.

In one study, students took an aptitude test and were told they scored poorly. Later, when they learned the exam was miss-scored, most participants were unable to erase the experience. They continued to persevere in their beliefs.

What faulty beliefs do you have about your practice and what faulty beliefs does the marketplace have about you and the profession of orthodontics? These are million-dollar questions that you must answer.

If I had a dollar for each time an orthodontist told me direct mail doesn’t work in their market or that they are doing a good job answering their phones, I’d be a lot richer than I already am.

Somewhere in the course of their career, most doctors have convinced themselves about something and they continue to believe it, even when it is proven to be false.

It’s OK, I don’t coach and consult for my health. I do it to feed my cleft palate foundation and Smiles Change Lives. I make my money straightening and cleaning teeth, and in real estate. So, I’ve stopped taking irrational disbelief from orthodontists as a personal insult. I’ve started calling it willful ignorance.

Listen. If you’re honest with yourself, this isn’t a question about how often we commit this sin of perseverance of belief, but rather why is this tendency so prevalent?

Sometimes we make false correlations between events or we stay the course due to sunk costs. For example, our collections and production are up right after hiring a new treatment coordinator, so we assume a potentially false correlation between the new hire and our success in the treatment room.

Even if I show you proof that your TC is screwing up the new patient process, you’re likely to drag your feet on replacing or moving this employee to a different position due to false correlation and sunk cost bias.

Finally, consider the power of your beliefs and past experiences and their ability to limit your problem-solving skills. Most small business owners go to battle with important problems and challenges in the marketplace with little more than their own limited experience and false beliefs. This is dangerous and if you run a business where your past strategy is the only thing you have to deploy against new challenges, you put everyone around you at risk as well.

In my book, Own It: The Smart Orthodontist’s Guide to Standing Out in a Crowded Market, I list fifteen critical core competencies I see missing in most orthodontic practices, not based on my own past experience and belief but on the secret shopper data from over 1,000 new patients.

You see, there are things you and I might believe about our practices and about our patients and their desires, but it’s hard to argue with the transcripts and video tape from a thousand new patients.

Solving problems for patients and delivering more value than everyone else in your market and in your price-tier isn’t rocket science, but it’s so powerful to get outside your own head and shed the biases, false beliefs and erroneous correlations in our industry that doing so will make you appear as smart as a rocket scientist.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.