An analysis of success in everything from school to careers

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An analysis of success in everything from school to careers

Career Successes Come in Clusters Bursts of brilliance happen for almost everyone. Subscribe Get the latest from Kellogg Insight delivered to your inbox.

Looking at the career histories of thousands of scientists, artists, and film directors, the team found evidence that hot streaks are both real and ubiquitous, with virtually everyone experiencing one at some point in their career.

The only reason that early-career hits were more common, explains Wang, is because younger scientists tend to be more prolific.

An analysis of success in everything from school to careers

Wang could imagine two very different scenarios. On the other hand, there were logical reasons to think that one strong paper might beget another. Using Google Scholar and Web of Science, Wang and Liu obtained data on research papers published by more than 20, scientists, which included the number of citations each paper received in its first ten years.


Then they decided to expand the analysis beyond academia. To gauge success, they obtained the auction prices of artworks produced by 3, painters, sculptors, and other artists.

And they combed film database IMDb for the career histories of 6, directors, using the IMDb ratings to approximate the success. Watch this video to learn how to use the interactive graphic below it: If the hot streak was a myth, then the hits in the real data should not be any closer together than in the randomized data.

In all three fields, about 90 percent of individuals had at least one hot streak. But that was not what they found.

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Vase with Twelve Sunflowers. Drilling down into the data, the researchers observed that most individuals experienced at least one hot-streak period. While some lucky people had multiple, the majority of the population had exactly one.

Furthermore, those whose work had a smaller average impact lower citation counts, auction prices, and ratings in their non-hot-streak days saw a larger relative boost during their hot-streak period. If a person happened to produce more movies, art, or scientific papers during a certain period, it would make sense that their best works clustered together during that period, simply because they had more chances to create a hit.

However, the authors found no perceptible change in productivity during hot streaks. Wang hopes to look more closely in future research at what does cause a hot streak to begin and end.

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But he emphasizes that the current results are meaningful on their own. The study could change how we think about up-and-coming talent. Wang happily dreams about the day that his own hot streak kicks in.


I really look forward to that.For kids with ADHD, the right approach to school can mean the difference between good grades, and the confidence that comes with them, and another round of, “I lost my homework again.” Here are a few suggestions for tools and strategies to help kids with ADHD get set for success.

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An analysis of success in everything from school to careers

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