When You’re Hot

Research at Kellogg North Western University proves the old adage “When you’re Hot, You’r Hot”. In a study of creatives and scientists they found that career successes really do come in clusters.

While there is no common findings about when people might experience this in their careers, virtually everyone did have a hot streak at some point.

One theory is that one great result might lead to another. “If I produced a good work, I feel like I learned the trick,” says Wang. “Now I feel like I’m equipped to do another work that’s just as good or even better.

Studying the academic papers of more than 20,000 scientists, the film careers of more than 6,000 directors and commercial value of artistic works by 3500 painters, sculptors and other artists .

“If we know where your best work is, then we know very well where your second-best work is, and your third, because they’re just around the corner.”

Lu Liu, Yang Wang and Dashun Wang
Source: Kellogg Insight

If you are interested exploring more about ‘when you’re hot’, you can play with the interactive model (click above) and compare the success streaks of artists, directors and scientists.

Initially the researchers observed that “taken individually, each of an artist’s three most expensive artworks, a director’s three top-rated movies, and a scientist’s three most cited publications appeared to come at completely unpredictable points in that person’s career”.

But when they explored relative timing they saw that individuals best performances were 50% more likely to occur back to back. Similarly the second and third works were likely be clustered together.

“Because what you produce during a hot streak is substantially better, your hot-streak period fundamentally determines your entire career’s impact,”

Dashun Wang

Across the study approximately 90 percent of individuals had a hot streak. Einstein’s finished three papers between March and June of 1905 that radically changed how the science world thinks about space and time. ut Peter Jackson had the The Lord of the Rings series. Jackson Pollock the “drip period”. Vincent van Gogh’s produced The Yellow HouseVan Gogh’s Chair, Bedroom in ArlesThe Night CaféCafé Terrace at Night, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers in one year alone after he moved from Paris to South France.

Key Takeaways

  • A study of creative and scientific careers identified that peoples career highlights do tend to run in a hot streak.
  • Your hot streak could be in front of you or behind you – but there is no way to predict it.
DIGEST of an article from Kellogg Insight
When You’re Hot, You’re Hot: Career Successes Come in Clusters
By Jake J. Smith and based on the research of Lu Liu, Yang Wang and Dashun Wang
Published: 11th July 2018

and from Harvard Business Review
Career Hot Streaks Can Happen at Any Age
By Dashun Wang
Published: 5th October 2018

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