Cluster analysis, the automatic procedure by which large data sets can be split into similar groups of objects (clusters), has innumerable applications in a wide range of problem domains. Improvements in clustering quality (as captured by internal validation indexes) and speed (number of iterations until cost function convergence), the main focus of this work, have many desirable consequences. They can result, for example, in faster and more precise detection of illness onset based on symptoms or it could provide investors with a rapid detection and visualization of patterns in financial time series and so on. Partitional clustering, one of the most popular ways of doing cluster analysis, can be classified into two main categories: hard (where the clusters discovered are disjoint) and soft (also known as fuzzy; clusters are non-disjoint, or overlapping). In this work we consider how improvements in the speed and solution quality of the soft partitional clustering algorithm Fuzzy C-means (FCM) can be achieved through more careful and informed initialization based on data content. By carefully selecting the cluster centers in a way which disperses the initial cluster centers through the data space, the resulting FCM++ approach samples starting cluster centers during the initialization phase. The cluster centers are well spread in the input space, resulting in both faster convergence times and higher quality solutions. Moreover, we allow the user to specify a parameter indicating how far and apart the cluster centers should be picked in the dataspace right at the beginning of the clustering procedure. We show FCM++'s superior behaviour in both convergence times and quality compared with existing methods, on a wide rangeof artificially generated and real data sets. We consider a case study where we propose a methodology based on FCM++for pattern discovery on synthetic and real world time series data. We discuss a method to utilize both Pearson correlation and Multi-Dimensional Scaling in order to reduce data dimensionality, remove noise and make the dataset easier to interpret and analyse. We show that by using FCM++ we can make an positive impact on the quality (with the Xie Beni index being lower in nine out of ten cases for FCM++) and speed (with on average 6.3 iterations compared with 22.6 iterations) when trying to cluster these lower dimensional, noise reduced, representations of the time series. This methodology provides a clearer picture of the cluster analysis results and helps in detecting similarly behaving time series which could otherwise come from any domain. Further, we investigate the use of Spherical Fuzzy C-Means (SFCM) with the seeding mechanism used for FCM++ on news text data retrieved from a popular British newspaper. The methodology allows us to visualize and group hundreds of news articles based on the topics discussed within. The positive impact made by SFCM++ translates into a faster process (with on average 12.2 iterations compared with the 16.8 needed by the standard SFCM) and a higher quality solution (with the Xie Beni being lower for SFCM++ in seven out of every ten runs).