13 September (WNN) — The careers and legacy of successful artists are often defined by relatively short periods of intense productivity and popularity.
Now, new research — published Monday in the journal Nature Communications — suggests that these breakthroughs follow a relatively general formula: creative exploration followed by exploitation.
Jackson Pollock, one of modern art’s best-known painters, created most of his iconic works during a three-year period from 1947 to 1950. Prior to his “Hot Streak”, Pollock experimented with different styles of subject matter, first drawing and later drawing humans, animals, and nature.
It was only after years of experimentation that he began tossing drops of paint on the canvas. When his scattered works began to make waves in the art world, Pollock doubled down on the technique, which researchers call “exploitation,” creating a range of high-impact works.
When Northwestern University data scientists used algorithms to analyze the trajectories of dozens of successful performers, they found that the formula was ubiquitous.
The early careers of successful artists are regularly defined by experimentation with a variety of styles, mediums and subjects, followed by years of exploitation, an approach characterized by a narrow focus and deep expertise.
“Neither exploration nor exploitation alone in isolation is associated with a hot streak. It is their simultaneous sequel. Although exploration is considered a risk because it may not lead anywhere, it takes on a great idea.” increases the likelihood of stumbling,” said lead study author Dashhun Wang in a press release.
In contrast, exploitation is generally viewed as a conservative strategy. If you exploit the same type of work over and over for a long time, it can stifle creativity. But, interestingly, post-exploitation finds show a consistent association with the onset of hot streaks,” said Wang, a professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering.
Wang conducted research published in 2018 demonstrating the reality of artistic “hot streaks”. Later, Wang sought to find out what caused these bouts of creative productivity.
Like Pollock, van Gogh’s legacy was reinforced by the “hot streak”. Most of his influential works, including Starry Night, Sunflowers and Bedroom in Arles, were painted between 1888 and 1890.
Prior to his success, van Gogh’s color palette was darker and his style less dominant.
“If you look at their production before 1888, it was everywhere,” Wang said. “It was full of still-life paintings, pencil drawings, and portraits that are very different in character from the work he created during his hot streak.”
For this study, Wang and his colleagues used data analytics to identify patterns among the production patterns of actors, film directors, and scientists.
The researchers used their novel algorithm to survey 800,000 visual arts images from museums and galleries – works created by more than 2,000 different artists. The researchers also obtained data on thousands of movies and film directors from the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb.
Additionally, the researchers looked at the career histories of nearly 20,000 scientists using publication and citation information from the Web of Science and Google Scholar.
The data showed that when a period of exploitation is not immediately followed by a period of exploration or experimentation, the likelihood of a hot streak is significantly reduced.
Similarly, when exploitation does not occur prior to exploration, a hot streak remains unlikely. However, when exploration becomes exploited, the potential for a hot streak increases.
“We were able to identify one of the first regularities underlying the onset of hot streaks, which appears to be universal across diverse creative domains,” said Wang, director of the Center for Science and Science Innovation and a core member of the Northwestern Institute for Science and Technology. ” complex system.
“Our findings suggest that creative strategies that balance experimentation with implementation can be particularly powerful,” Wang said.
On average, hot streaks last up to five years. After achieving a hot streak, artists and scientists return to a more variable work pattern—defined by neither exploration or exploitation.
“This knowledge can help individuals and organizations understand the wide variety of activities to be involved in – such as exploring new domains or harnessing existing knowledge and competencies – and ways to use them to achieve the most significant impact. the optimal sequence,” the study stated. Co-authored by Jillian Chown, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School.