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How Spotify can enlighten dentists about growth-oriented feedback

Dec. 13, 2021
Don't be a broken record—recent research for Spotify may prove useful for dental practices. Being open to new ideas can help dentists improve their practices.

This fall, researchers at Cornell University published a paper titled, “Evaluating music recommendations with binary feedback for multiple stakeholders.”1 Simply put, the music service Spotify would be able to improve its recommendation algorithm if it incorporated a “dislike” button. What they discovered to be true for the music streaming service is just as true in your practice.

Negative feedback can yield positive results

According to the paper’s lead author, Sasha Stoikov, “An algorithm that only has ‘likes’ may help you discover songs you really enjoy, but it also has a greater chance of recommending songs you don’t like.” 

How are you engaging with your staff and patients? Do you ask questions to confirm opinions or to learn how the people around you are thinking? Do you look for feedback that will justify your decisions or push your practice in new directions? Don’t be afraid to ask what isn’t going well, or to engage the team in conversations where there might be conflict. Giving negative feedback a chance to be heard can actually lead to better decision-making and stronger leadership on your part. 

Playing to strengths can limit growth

The research from the paper demonstrates how the “likes only” algorithm impacts not just what listeners hear; it also makes it more challenging for up-and-coming music to find an audience. “Since algorithms often are trained on whether or not an individual listens to a song rather than if the listener likes or dislikes the song, they favor well-known artists who are more often heard, recommended on playlists, and remembered at the search bar,” Stoikov said.

How is playing to your strengths placing you in a silo away from clinical innovation? Are there new products, new techniques, or new workflows you’ve missed while you’re conducting business as usual? No one expects you to upgrade overnight, but it is critical to build in opportunities for learning, and I don’t just mean getting continuing education credits for seminars and topics that are already in your wheelhouse. By engaging with ideas that you might not agree with, you’ll either strengthen your conviction around your choices or discover something new you’re willing to try. This keeps work more interesting for you and can lead to breakthroughs in your patient care.

You’re not a streaming service, but you are running a business that needs to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders. If Spotify has anything to teach us, it might be as simple as being willing to change your tune.

Editor's note: Mobile dentistry and teledentistry: Are you in or out?
Video consults improve patient experience and increase practice revenue


  1. Stoikov S, Wen H. Evaluating music recommendations with binary feedback for multiple stakeholders. Papers/ssrn. September 10, 2021. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3919046

Editor's note: This article appeared in the December 2021 print edition of Dental Economics.

About the Author

Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS

Lou Shuman, DMD, CAGS, is the CEO of Cellerant Consulting Group, dentistry’s leading corporate incubator and accelerator. He is a venturer-in-residence at Harvard’s i-Lab, cofounder of LightForce Orthodontics, a member of the Dental Economics advisory board, and founder of the Cellerant Best of Class Technology Awards. He was selected in 2021 by Global Summits Institute as one of the World’s Top 100 Doctors.

Updated September 20, 2022

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