Ideas matter, but execution matters more. That's why almost every successful person -- in whatever way they choose to define "success" -- are great problem-solvers. Success requires solving difficult challenges. Finding ways to overcome roadblocks.
Building a successful business -- just like building a successful career -- requires solving a nearly endless series of problems.
So how can you become a better problem-solver?
Science says the answer is simple: Drink a cup of coffee.
You may already know that coffee increases your ability to focus, and also helps individuals in teams work together more efficiently and effectively. But you might not know that a 2020 double-blind study published in Consciousness and Cognition found the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee improves problem-solving abilities.
Interestingly enough, a cup of coffee didn't necessarily improve creativity or divergent thinking. (Divergent thinking involves free-flowing, spontaneous, non-linear idea generation. Not just thinking outside the box, but thinking with no box.)
The researchers were also surprised to find that drinking a cup of coffee resulted in faster problem-solving by insight -- think "Aha!" rather than step-by-step analysis -- which they speculate may be caused by the faster mental processing that is associated with caffeine.
As the researchers write:
We found that participants who consumed approximately one 12-ounce cup of coffee showed significantly enhanced problem-solving abilities.
The effects remained after controlling for participants' caffeine expectancies, whether they believed they consumed caffeine or a placebo, or for changes in mood.
Or in non-researcher-speak, a cup of coffee won't necessarily make you more creative. But it can help you solve problems, even if you're in a bad mood.
The actual mechanism is, as you can guess, a little unclear. Other studies have shown that caffeine increases alertness. Improves vigilance and motor performance. Enhances concentration and attentional focus. Elevates mood.
All those factors can contribute to improved problem-solving ability: The more focused, alert, and attentive I am -- and the better my mood -- the more I'm likely to determine the best solution.
Even so, why it works is interesting but somewhat irrelevant.
What matters is that drinking a cup of coffee -- or consuming a similar amount of caffeine (my caffeine of choice is Diet Mountain Dew) -- is a mind-enhancing substance that actually works.
Just keep in mind that more doesn't necessarily correlate with better. "Sharp and focused" is helpful -- "wired and jittery," not so much.
So consider your timing. Drinking your cup of coffee before you do something physical but relatively mindless may be tempting, but saving the enhancement boost for when you sit down to solve a complex problem could make a bigger impact.
Because when you're an entrepreneur, your ability to solve problems can often be the difference between success and failure.