The science behind career 'hot streaks'

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It feels like nothing can stop you when you’re on a hot streak.

But is there an explanation for those times or is it just random luck?

The latest research indicates there could be some sort of internal shift at work which produces a series of highly creative moments.

Scientists have just released details of deep research into those moments in careers when everything seems to go right with an accompanying flow of money, accolades and promotion.

These hot streaks, as they are sometimes called, are widely debated in sport, gambling and financial markets but little research has been done about whether they apply to careers.

A study published in the journal Nature shows that artistic hot streaks in careers can be the result of high-impact works occurring in sequence.

But the research found that periods of repeated successes can emerge randomly within a career, are temporary and are not associated with any detectable change in productivity.

Dashun Wang of Northwestern University in the US and colleagues collected data recording the career histories of 3,480 individual artists, 6,233 film directors and 20,040 scientists.

They traced the impact of the artworks, films and papers they produced, via by auction prices, film ratings and citations.

The authors found that the majority of artists (91%), film directors (82%) and scientists (90%) had at least one hot streak.

They also found that individuals showed no detectable change in productivity during these hot streaks, despite the fact that their output was significantly better than usual.

The researchers say this suggests an internal shift in individual creativity when the hot streak hits.

“We find this phenomenon to be remarkably universal … hot streaks are ubiquitous yet usually unique across different careers,” researchers write.

While the study didn’t really identify the true origin of hot streaks, the researchers says the work may have implications for identifying and nurturing individuals whose work will have lasting impact.

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