OMG you are so hot right now! We all get one hot streak of success

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Periods of outstanding success in a career, or hot streaks, where winning leads to more winning, are short, occur randomly and most people only get one in a career according to US research. By tracking the careers of artists, film directors and scientists the researchers examined how hot streaks unfold over a career. They found that most people get one hot streak that lasts around 3-6 years. Interestingly people don't produce more during a hot streak but their outputs are better than average, suggesting a shift in an individuals creativity when a hot streak occurs.

Journal/conference: Nature

Organisation/s: Northwestern University, USA

Funder: This work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) under award number FA9550-15-1-0162 and FA9550-17-1-0089, and Northwestern University’s Data Science Initiative. R.S. acknowledges support from AFOSR grant FA9550-15-1-0364 and from the Central European University Intellectual Themes Initiative ‘Just Data’.

Media Release

From: Springer Nature

Social science: Hot streaks in artistic, cultural and scientific careers analysed

Hot streaks, or periods of repeated successes, can emerge randomly within an individual’s career, are temporally localized and are not associated with any detectable change in productivity, according to a study published online in Nature this week.

The hot streak, loosely defined as ‘winning begets more winnings’, highlights a specific period during which an individual’s performance is substantially higher than typical. Although widely debated in sports, gambling, and financial markets, little is known about whether hot streaks apply to individual careers.

Dashun Wang and colleagues collected datasets recording the career histories of 3,480 individual artists, 6,233 film directors and 20,040 scientists, tracing the impacts of the artworks, films and papers they produced, approximated by auction prices, IMDb ratings and citations garnered after 10 years of publication, respectively. The authors found that the vast majority of artists (91%), film directors (82%) and scientists (90%) had at least one hot streak, with a burst of high-impact works occurring in sequence, and that they could occur randomly within a career. They also found that individuals showed no detectable change in productivity during hot streaks, despite the fact that their outputs in this period were significantly better than typical, which suggests an internal shift in individual creativity when the hot streak occurs.

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