From the February 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

When Conrad Hilton was bidding for the Stevens Hotel, a number popped into his head. He put that number on the table and bought the world's largest hotel for just $200 more than the next offer!

Our scientific age devalues intuition. Of course, deal-makers obsess about numbers, payments and logistics. But there is also magic in negotiation, and when you tune into your inner voice and feelings, it will manifest. So what about those brilliant flashes of insight? Where do they come from? And, more important, how can we have more of them?

Intuition works best when you're relaxed. Define your problem, study it and then forget about it for a while. Take a walk, run an errand, do something else. Just let your subconscious take over. There's a reason getting a brilliant idea in the shower is a cliché. Breakthroughs may come when you least expect them.

Pay attention to dreams. Descartes' philosophy, Robert Louis Stevenson's novels, Einstein's theory of relativity, Michael Jackson's music, Mendeleev's periodic table and Jack Nicklaus' golf grip all came out of dreams.

Socrates had a spirit guide or daemon. Douglas MacArthur discussed strategy with an imaginary hero father figure. Do you have any heroes? If not, conjure some up. Ask yourself what they would do. Consider this from James M. Benham, founder of the Capital Preservation Fund: "Whenever I have heavy problems, I simply introduce the problem to my mind. And in time, I always get an answer. I think I have spiritual friends. I believe they will have me pick up a book or a magazine or read something somewhere, or have someone say something to me to give me the input to help me with questions that I have to deal with."

But if your subconscious doesn't throw you pearls on a regular basis, encourage it:

  • Toss a coin. Ask yourself, how do you feel about the outcome? Why?
  • Scribble. Leonardo Da Vinci used this one. Go crazy. What do you get?
  • Force comparison. Open the dictionary and pick a word. How is your problem like an apple or a porcupine?
  • Write with your nondominant hand. Psychologists say it helps access the creative part of your personality.
  • Ask an object. Close your eyes and think of your question. When you open your eyes, let the first object you look at tell you the answer.

To some degree, everyone is intuitive. Just because you can't explain your hunches doesn't mean you shouldn't profit from them.


A speaker and attorney in Los Angeles, Marc Diener is the author of Deal Power.