You have probably seen a product become extremely popular and thought to yourself: 'Of course, I knew it was going to be in great demand. Why didn't I think of that?'

In truth, your subconscious mind probably realised it a long time before. Science has demonstrated that intuitive predictions are generally better than rationally justified predictions. So what does it take to be ahead of the trend and figure out your intuitive mind before it becomes reality? It's a great skill, and it can take a lifetime to master it. Yet the sooner you start practicing it, the sooner you can start profiting from your intuitions. And the more you refine your intuitions, the larger your profits will be.

'So where does this process begin?'

Everyone has intuitive skills. It is NOT a psychic ability handed out through genetics. Instead, intuition is an UNconscious sorting of the information that you hold in your brain, based on ALL the knowledge and experience you have recorded in the past. Those 'gut' feelings that you get are based on a combination of not only the research data you collect today, but also on ALL the data you have collected in your past experiences. You might not be aware that this process is occurring, yet your subconscious brain is splitting those experiences into bits of data that are assimilated into a pattern you end up using to predict an outcome. Therefore your gut feeling is really a sophisticated pattern recognition program in your brain.

'How can I improve my intuition?'

There are two main areas you can improve to enhance your intuition.

  1. Acquire more information:

    You need deep information about your business and industry before your intuitions can be accurate. If there are gaps in your brain's basic understanding of your market, you will find it hard to make accurate predictions. Seek out information about other businesses and industries and think about how to apply it to your product and business. For example, startups often innovate by taking technology from one field and introducing it to a field in which that technology currently doesn't exist. Take as an example the online entrepreneur who is selling household appliances. As he looks to other industries, what can he learn that helps him innovate in his business? How about:

    i. Personalisation seems to be an incredibly important part of life today. Take the car seat that memorizes each driver's settings. Would it make sense to have a toaster that records each family member's crispiness and toastiness preferences, so that when the bread goes in, you push the 'John' button and the toast pops out lightly toasted, and the 'Sue' button for a much darker and drier version?

    ii. Interaction is also important. How about a counter top grill that announces how the cooking is coming: 'The steak is medium rare, shall I keep cooking it?'

    Silly? Maybe ... but maybe not. Feed yourself a constant flow of information about your business, industry and market so there is a lot of information to work on. Force yourself to work through the patterns. Ask what new product your market will want to buy next year. Challenge yourself to think of two new uses for a product you are selling today. Take the top three stories from the day's news and decide how they will affect sales in your industry this year. Try it yourself and see if you can find a way to modify your product to catch the newest trend.

  2. Learn to recognise your intuitive thoughts, and to recall them when necessary:

    One of the first ways to work with your intuition is to recognise when it's working for you. By recognising the way your subconscious communicates in your mind, you will recognise your intuition more easily instead of dismissing it as an irrational thought. For example, some people get a visual flash of the answer they need. Others hear a voice in their head or feel physically pulled in a direction. If you hear it, ask a question in your mind. If you see it, write the question on a bulletin board or create a mental image of the problem. By acknowledging and reinforcing your subconscious signals you will be able to identify them quickly the next time you need them.

    You can also use associations. For example, when you sense an intuitive thought, acknowledge it with some physical movement such as clapping your hands or squeezing your toes (sounds very silly, but it works). Then, when you want to evoke your intuition, use the same physical movement to recall your intuition.

    You can also use meditation techniques to quiet your conscious mind and increase your connection with your subconscious, intuitive mind. Pose questions to yourself then meditate for a time and you may find new insights.

    Help yourself make connections by brainstorming. Try writing down your problem, issue, goal in the middle of a piece of paper. Start drawing lines and writing thoughts about that central issue in connected balloons. Let your mind take you from balloon to balloon, drawing new lines, and making connections where they make sense. This exercise will show you different ways to think about the same problem, and then will lead you to your intuitive subconscious.

    Don't ignore the data that you have. It's all useful, it all builds connections. But push the data as far as you can. Take a piece of information about the drop in purchase of luxury items, for example. Push that information:

    i. How far will purchasing drop?

    ii. What will people buy instead?

    iii. Will there be a new generation of high end purchasers?

    iv. What forces will allow that to happen?

    v. What would the new purchaser want that's different from the old purchaser?

    Then write down as many major trends as you can think of, and think about how each affects your issue both negatively and positively. Then think about what you can do to minimise the negatives and capitalise on the positives. Are there any themes that emerge? Do you see where you should be taking your business based on this analysis?

    i. Think globally. If your product or business is focused in one country, think about what's happening in other countries.

    ii. Think across industries. How are businesses in other industries dealing with this issue?

    iii. Think about your customer. How is your customer changing in response to the issues you have identified? What does that mean about their wants and needs? How do you adapt your products to ride those emerging trends?

You may not be able to control your intuition, but by challenging yourself and your thought process, and training yourself to work with your subconscious, you will be able to inspire regular flashes of insight that you can trust to be a benefit to your business and your life.