Most evenings, while other train-riding commuters chat into their mobile phones, listen to their iPods or read, I struggle over the newspaper's daily Sudoku puzzle.

Admittedly, I'm embarrassingly late to this party. I spent a few years resenting Sudoku's encroachment on the crossword's page and assuming that Sudoku was solely the province of number people (physicists, actuaries and the like). Then, pride kept me from attempting a puzzle until I found a place where no one I knew could watch me gnaw the plastic off a pen in frustration (business travel, Southwest Airlines magazine, empty adjacent seat).

Now I'm hooked, but by no means an expert. In fact, it feels as though each puzzle burns a whole new set of pathways across my brain. It requires, in other words, thinking differently than I do the rest of my waking hours.

Health care these days requires thinking differently. While hospital governance always has been challenging work, the financial, legislative and regulatory developments over the past year or so have made it exponentially more complex. These new challenges can't be tackled with the same old solutions.

All the issues we cover this month require creative thought in the boardroom. However, we hope to jump start your imagination by offering a look at several organizations' innovative efforts: mitigating the physician shortage with mid-level providers, developing partnerships inside and out of the hospital to reduce readmissions, and improving the efficacy of rapid-response teams.

I'm convinced that great ideas need fertile soil from which to sprout, and Sudoku is one way I cultivate my gray matter. Tap-dancing classes and violin lessons also can serve this purpose, but neither is as portable nor subtle.