This issue of IDT is devoted to the concept of collaboration—dental professionals working together as a healthcare team to execute a common vision and to achieve the best treatment outcome for the patient. Philosophically, we all grasp what the word collaboration means and can even envision what the ideal relationship should look and feel like in real-world practice. However, for most in this industry, transforming that vision into a reality has been difficult to achieve.
Yet, we are entering a dynamic era in which the knowledge base and capabilities of a single stakeholder are not enough to meet the biological and biotechnical needs and expectations of patients who increasingly demand the function and esthetics nature created. The complexity of today’s treatment protocols, the mastery of rapidly changing technologies, and a deep understanding of new materials options and applications requires input from each specialty team member to best solve the patient’s oral situation.
Collaboration is an interdependent, mutually beneficial relationship formed between independent entities that results in a win for each partner. Myriad examples of such partnerships are in nature and business. The bumblebee derives energy from the flower while the flower depends on the bee to spread its pollen to ensure reproduction. The pilot fish swims into the mouth of a large predatory fish to feed on parasites. In return, the smaller fish is afforded protection.
In business, Toyota formed an alliance with Subaru and BMW to license its hybrid technology to the former and obtain diesel engines from the latter. In the dental industry, manufacturers that a little more than a decade ago were competitors have adopted a collaborative relationship that, for example, allows one partner to reach a wider market for a particular product and the other to expand its product line to bring greater value to its customers.
Whether in nature or business, these relationships are created out of a need to attack a problem that each partner wishes to solve and out of the recognition that neither can solve the issue in isolation. When well-executed, collaborative arrangements can be powerful business-building propositions. Subjugating the “I” and adopting a “we” philosophy keeps the focus tightly on the patient and enables the creation of a multidisciplinary strategy that results in a powerful value proposition for the patient and a profitable business relationship for the team.
However, such relationships must be nurtured in an environment that encourages information sharing, a desire to learn from and with each other, and a willingness by all parties to leave their comfort zones. It is only then that trust and respect can be realized, alliances formed, and exceptional results achieved. Come to Collaboration 2014 in November and experience a true collaborative learning environment.