Ever Been on a Creative Hot Streak? A New Study Finds That It Involves These Two Habits

At one time or another, we’ve all been on a creative hot streak even if we didn’t realize it. The words flowed freely, the design snapped into place magically making for very impactful creative. But how did that happen? How does one get on a “hot steak” of creativity? A new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University may have a road map.

The secret involves experimenting with a wide range of subjects, styles, and techniques before perfecting a specific area of one’s craft—what the authors describe as a mix of exploration and exploitation.

“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.”

Wang’s findings, published in the journal Nature, sought to identify periods of intense creativity in the work of visual artists, as well as film directors and scientists. The team used image recognition algorithms to analyze data from 800,000 artworks from 2,128 artists, including Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, and Vincent van Gogh. The rest of the study was based on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) data sets for 4,337 directors, and publications and citations on the Web of Science and Google Scholar for 20,040 scientists.

Creative trajectories and hot-streak dynamics: three exemplary careers. Data analyzing the work of Jackson Pollock, Peter Jackson, and John Fenn.

Creative trajectories and hot-streak dynamics: three exemplary careers. Data analyzing the work of Jackson Pollock, Peter Jackson, and John Fenn.

Pollock, who achieved widespread popular and critical success with his groundbreaking drip paintings from 1946 to 1950, is one of three creators singled out as examples in the paper.

Director Peter Jackson, who famously made the “The Lord of the Rings” epic fantasy trilogy after experimenting in genres such as horror-comedy and biography is another.

John Fenn, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work with electrospray ionization, having previously studied numerous other topics is another.

The paper identified patterns in the creators’ work over time—changes in brushstrokes, plot points or casting decisions, or research topics. It noted the diversity both in the period leading up to a hot streak, which typically lasts about five years, and at other times in the subject’s career. Five years?!

I found this to be surprising in that most hot streaks I’ve personally encountered have been anywhere from a few hours to several months. I’ve never thought of them in terms of years. Anywhoo . . .

In all three fields, the trend tended toward a more diverse body of work in the period before a hot streak than at other points in time. Then, during the hot streak, the creators tended to continue to work in the same vein, suggesting “that individuals become substantially more focused on what they work on, reflecting an exploitation strategy during hot streak.”

So when is your next hot streak coming up and will you know it when it hits you?

This post is based upon the article by Sarah Cascone of Art Net News.

https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2015/12/Jackson-Pollock-1950_L2011001166.jpg
Jackson Pollock at work in 1950. Photo: ©1991 Hans Namuth Estate Courtesy Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona.

Creativity Tip #24: Trying to satisfy everybody never got anybody anywhere. Focus on what’s important, then do it.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

More Quotes

Since it’s been a few weeks when Quotes last appeared, I thought it was time to bring them back. Mostly advertising folks below but a few that are just as memorable. Everyone comes from a different perspective. Enjoy!

Conceit is God’s gift to little men. — Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance. — Bruce Barton, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable. — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one. — Alex Osborne, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Some questions don’t have answers, which is a terribly difficult lesson to learn. — Katharine Graham, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The heart of creativity is discipline. — William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

If you can’t turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn’t be in the ad writing business at all. — Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.
— David Ogilvy, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Advertising, to be successful, must understand or anticipate basic human needs and wants and interpret available goods and services in terms of their want-satisfying abilities. This is the very opposite of manipulation. — Charles H. Sandage, Advertising Hall of Fame

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? – Vincent Van Gogh

Creativity Tip #34: Start fooling around. Splash the paint on. Scribble the words down. Sing.



Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.



Quotes of Historical Perspective

From Steinem to Van Gogh to Serling and more, these quotes cover a multitude of personalities and perspectives. Enjoy as you read through the history makers, some of our time, some not.

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. Gloria Steinem

You cannot rely upon what you have been taught. All you have learned from history is old ways of making mistakes. There is nothing that history can tell you about what we must do tomorrow. Only what we must not do. Edwin H. Land

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? Vincent Van Gogh

It isn’t enough for a sole voice of reason to exist. In this time of uncertainty we’re so sure that villains lurk around every corner that we will create them ourselves if we can’t find them. For while fear may keep us vigilant, it’s also fear that tears us apart. Rod Serling

Rod Serling

An important idea not communicated persuasively is like having no idea at all. William Bernbach, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

In writing advertising it must always be kept in mind that the customer often knows more about the goods than the advertising writers because they have had experience in buying them, and any seeming deception in a statement is costly, not only in the expense of the advertising but in the detrimental effect produced upon the customer, who believes she has been misled. John Wanamaker, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it at the bud.  Alex Osborn, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions, it rarely moves anyone.  Fairfax M. Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The scientist has marched in and taken the place of the poet. But one day somebody will find the solution to the problems of the world and remember, it will be a poet, not a scientist. Frank Lloyd Wright

Creativity Tip #36: If you can’t explain your idea to an 8-year old, it’s too complicated.



Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.

The Quotes Just Keep on Coming

In a continuing effort to highlight various modes of thought by different folks through the ages, the following quotes are offered up to enlighten your imagination and, perhaps, even tickle your funny bone. Then, again, maybe they’ll make you think. Enjoy!

You have to be noticed, but the art is getting noticed naturally, without screaming and without tricks. – Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size. — Albert Einstein

No moral, no message, no prophetic tract, just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight’s very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone.

. . . And . . .

Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake. ― Rod Serling

Inspirational quotes for folks who don’t like them:

On fighting the urge to follow the herd:

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde

What you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you. — Seneca

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. — Lucille Ball

On finding the beauty in chaos:

If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor. — Eleanor Roosevelt

I would rather die of passion than of boredom. — Vincent van Gogh

Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny. — Stephen Hawking

In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. — Anne Frank