Ever wondered why all the great artists appear to churn out their best works in the concentration of a few years? Turns out there’s a pretty cool name for it: hot streaks.

When individual careers are characterized by bursts of high-impact works clustered together in close succession, this is what is known as a hot streak. 

Sounds pretty awesome - how can I get one? Is there a secret winning formula that only The Greats know about? According to a new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, there actually might be. 

Ideas_Power_Of_Creativity2.jpgImage from Talenthouse creator Kev Pineda

Using artificial intelligence, the study found that individuals tend to explore diverse styles and topics before their hot streak begins, followed by a focus on one particular approach once the winning period has begun. 

Exploration + Exploitation = hot streak. 

Seems simple enough, right? It also seems like the formula some Talenthouse brief-winning artists have used when submitting their works.

“Although exploration is considered a risk because it might not lead anywhere, it increases the likelihood of stumbling upon a great idea,” the study’s lead author, Dashun Wang, said in a statement. “By contrast, exploitation is typically viewed as a conservative strategy. If you exploit the same type of work over and over for a long period of time, it might stifle creativity. But, interestingly, exploration followed by exploitation appears to show consistent associations with the onset of hot streaks.”

The study published in the journal Nature, sought to identify periods of intense creativity in the work of visual artists, film directors, and scientists. Using image recognition algorithms, the team analysed data from 800,000 artworks from 2,128 artists, including Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo, as well as IMDb data sets for 4,337 directors, and publications and citations on the Web of Science and Google Scholar for 20,040 scientists. 

power-of-creativity-illustration.jpgImage from Talenthouse creator Marcello Grassi

From there the paper identified patterns in the creator’s work over time, noting changes in brushstrokes, shapes and objects in artworks, or plot points or casting decisions in the case of film. For science, the artificial intelligence system identified different research topics within a researcher’s publications. 

One prime example of a ‘hot streaker’ is director Peter Jackson. His success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy came after a slew of eclectic movies (supposedly his period of exploration) such as the sci-fi comedy horror Bad Taste and the puppet film Meet the Feebles. 

The hot streak formula is also evident in artist Jackson Pollock’s career. Before developing his famed drip-technique (his exploitation phase), Pollock experimented with drawing, print-making and surrealist paintings. 

And more excitingly, there’s good news for the likes of us. “About 90% of people have at least one hot streak,” said Prof Dashun Wang. So pack away your paints, pencils, or whatever medium is your comfort zone and go get your hot streak on. 

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