I heard an interesting story recently on the Gist podcast about intuition, or the the ability to immediately understand a situation without the need for conscious reasoning. The story was about a mom who allegedly rescued her daughter from a potential kidnapping after waking in the middle of the night and feeling as if something was amiss. She ran to her child's room where she found an intruder and thwarted what appeared to be the intruder’s intention to kidnap.
Did this mom have some kind of sixth sense that warned her about the trouble without being conscious about it?
Personally, I think not. As a parent myself, I can tell you that I have intuitive moments every day (sometimes every hour) when I sense something is awry, but my hunches are based on the fact that my house goes completely silent. No running water, no thumping upstairs, no incessant "dad, dad, dad" echoing through the house. That is not intuition, that is just based on the fact that I know my children.
This same logic can be applied to entrepreneurial intuition. We read often about entrepreneurs who have found success because of a hunch or fortuitous circumstance. I understand that many believe in the power of intuition and luck, but I would argue that success is driven by something far more scientific: experience.
By and large, there is no better substitute for experience than experience, but what can inexperienced entrepreneurs do to improve their intuitive ability?
Quite simply: read.
Sure, this is not groundbreaking news, but so many entrepreneurs I know get caught up in the daily grind of work and life and cannot find the time to stay tuned to important business news. Luckily, staying on top and ahead of competitors these days is remarkably easy. Here are a few tips to maximize your time while consuming the information you need.
With the Internet at your fingertips, there is no shortage of information you can find. Websites for business, tech news and even inspiration and self help are abundant. Create a folder in your browser with the home pages of your favorites and set aside time each week to peruse them. For instance, my “BizNews” folder consists of several sites I check regularly. Here is a small sample:
- News/strategy: Entrepreneur (of course), Strategy+Business, BusinessWeek, FastCompany, BusinessInsider, Bloomberg, BusinessNewsDaily, WSJ, HBR
- Advertising/marketing: AdAge, AdWeek, BrandChannel, MarketingProfs
- Tech news: TechCrunch, TechCocktail, TheNextWeb, CNet, VentureBeat
This list does not include every site you should be checking, as you should also consider influential blogs and websites specific to your business. Pick and choose the sites that provide the best bang for your time.
A useful feature of most websites is the ability to add comments about articles. Not only does this get you to think critically about the information, it allows you to interact with others readers and, sometimes, the author. I have created relationships through corresponding through comments, and it has helped expand my network and sphere of information.
While newsletters are a great service that delivers directly to your inbox, inevitably your inbox will become a convoluted abyss of correspondences. To read the newsletters also requires you to, well, open your email. If you are like me and most entrepreneurs with A.D.D., opening your email leads you down a long and time-consuming path of distraction. Instead, set aside a block of time during the week to turn off email and focus on your browser bookmarks.
If finding the time to read can be a problem, then consider stashing away interesting and valuable articles to read later. You can simply bookmark the page in your browser or, in some cases, mark the page for a "read later list." Still other applications, such as Pocket or Evernote, provide great user interfaces to file stories away electronically and read later, and both offer browser extensions.
Still cannot find time to access websites and read regularly or cannot go through the trouble of visiting tens of websites to get the news? Consider apps that will curate news for you. There are many apps that can do this, so ask around for recommendations from your peers. I have found Flipboard incredibly useful, as users can set up feeds for specific news from specific sites, or even from your own social-media channels.
If you want to improve your ability to intuit effectively, do not depend on wild hunches or sheer luck. Instead, read daily and stay ahead of your industry and business news, so when that "hunch" does come, it is driven by your experience and knowledge, not by an assumption.
Now, if you will excuse me, it suddenly got quiet in the living room. My children have either been abducted by aliens or my son has locked his younger sister in the closet and is scheming how to get her out. My hunch tells me it is the latter.
Do you have other tips on how to improve your intuition? Please share them in the comments section below.