1. Nembhard, Ingrid M. PhD, MS
  2. Lee, Yuna S. H. PhD, MPH

Article Content

The need to continually improve health care organizational performance while simultaneously addressing the accumulating challenges facing health care organizations leads some to wonder: What are promising sources of new ideas for managing health care organizations? This important question for health care management scholars and administrators raises the issue of creativity in health care organizations. Creativity is defined as the generation of novel and useful ideas (Amabile, 1988). Creativity is the starting point for innovations-practices, policies or technologies that are new to a context-that have the potential to generate significant improvements.

Ingrid M. Nembhard, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowIngrid M. Nembhard, PhD, MS
Yuna S. H. Lee, PhD,... - Click to enlarge in new windowYuna S. H. Lee, PhD, MPH

Although creativity in health care predominantly is thought of in terms of innovations in surgical approaches, medications, and devices, it also relates to health care management. Creativity as an expressed organizational or management goal is a newer concept that might enhance efforts to improve the organization of health care services and lead to novel solutions to health care management existing and emerging challenges such as improving patient care experiences and coordinating care across multiple organizations and complex conditions.


Several health care organizations have recently embraced creativity via management initiatives such as the creation of innovation development departments and sponsorship of innovation tournaments or hackathons to generate new ideas to test new models of care delivery (e.g., for hospital discharges). Despite these initiatives, little empirical work exists on creativity in health care organizations as a basis for understanding of how creativity may support health care management improvements and thus lead to improved patient outcomes. In contrast, creativity research has been a thriving field of organizational research outside of health care. Now is time for health care management scholars to pursue insights on the link between creativity and organizational performance and the forces that affect creativity within health care settings. Health care managers want and need to know how to foster creativity, what the challenges to building creative organizations are, and how to overcome those barriers. Before the implementation of ideas, a subject that has received much attention in recent years, creative ideas must be generated.


We see health care as a particularly intriguing setting in which to explore creativity. Creativity is needed as health care organizations' desire for improvement and change introduces variation in an industry that also emphasizes standardization as a strategy for more evidence-based patient care and better organizational operations. We encourage research on creativity specifically focused on the development of health care management innovations, which may shed light on these important yet understudied ideas. We also encourage work on sources of creativity in health care organizations and how best to leverage different sources. Everyone from administrators to health care staff to patients and families have ideas to improve the management of health care services.


Understanding how creative ideas may improve the organization and delivery of health care will help health care organizations to discover and evaluate promising management ideas. It is time for more research that supports creativity in health care management. We might all learn how to be more creative and encourage creativity along the way.


Ingrid M. Nembhard, PhD, MS


Associate Editor


Yuna S. H. Lee, PhD, MPH




Amabile T. (1988). A model of creativity and innovation in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 10, 123-167. [Context Link]