The Science of Hot Streaks: Where They Come From, How to Create Them, & What Kills Them

Dr. Dashun Wang is one of the pioneering minds of our times, with his career path being a real testament to his worth. Dr. Wang was born and raised in the town Shenyang of China. After attaining his Bachelor’s degree in his native country, he pursued his Ph.D. studies in the USA. He is currently the Professor of Management at the Kellogg School of Management, and the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University, at Kellogg. He has also invested his time heavily into establishing the Center for Science of Science and Innovation.

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Dr. Wang grew up in a time when career orientation courses and abundant information were in shortage. These conditions encouraged the high school students to pick up studies depending on their aptitudes and skills. Dr. Wang chose to study Physics, and he later pursued his Ph.D. in the same scientific field. He wasn’t particularly thrilled about this choice, but he describes the whole process as captivating due to the enlightening notion during his Ph.D. studies. He envisioned and proceeded with a research shift toward Social Dynamics with the utilization of a data-driven approach.

The respected scientists have achieved many breakthroughs through Data Analysis and Data Science. This attained knowledge and tools have expanded the comprehension of the fundamental aspects of life. Several researchers have incorporated the tools of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in their quest to illuminate the deeper dynamics that govern our existence. One of these pioneers is Dr. Wang and his research team, who indulge in Social Dynamics and Networks principles. Using Data Analysis tools in Social Dynamics facilitates the answer to a series of existential questions, such as: ‘How do individuals shape a winning formula as a team?’ and ‘How do temporary failures lead to professional success eventually?’

Dr. Wang recalled that as a young Assistant Professor, he was determined to assess the success of his superiors’ careers. He proceeded by deciphering the data behind the patterns of their careers. With the aid of his students, a series of publications belong to their vast amount of data. We can also find a series of artworks from 500 years and miscellaneous films of the last 100 years. The collection of the paintings and movies occurred to observe distinct patterns in the careers of several artists and film directors.

For each occupational category, there are specific segments that point to the intensity of success or failure. For the examined professions, these are the citation index for scientists, the number of sold pieces for artworks, and the public rating of movies for directors. There are always further factors determining an individual’s career in these occupations, but the above are the most prominent. The intriguing part of Dr. Wang’s team’s research is their findings that there is a time when they derive their most influential work for each of the scientists, artists, and directors. The collected data and the deduced patterns combine to develop a robust mathematical model estimating the aforementioned time span. Dr. Wang refers to this time as the “Hot Streak”.

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There are various difficulties in the quantitative assessment of an entrepreneur’s or an employee’s more prolific time. It is relatively feasible to establish a pattern that estimates the hot streak for a scientist or an artist. It is much more difficult for an individual who does not have publications or artworks of any kind. An estimation may occur through our often misguided point of view. It usually occurs in the middle of our professional lives. Undoubtedly, though, most people analyzed by Dr. Wang and his team have experienced at least once a hot streak in their professional timespan. The latter may have been repeated in other periods and lasted for 4–5 years.

Dr. Wang unequivocally reiterates no clear definition for the most productive period in our professional lives. He insisted on describing that people are more impactful to their surrounding environment during their hot streaks. Furthermore, he explicitly states that there is no difference whatsoever whether you are or not in your most prolific period. It is an entirely subjective matter, and our response should be decisive and absolute: We have to produce more no matter where we stand at any given time.

The fascinating part of Dr. Wang’s research is that his team accumulated a vast amount of data that they would not be able to process some years ago. Today, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools have alleviated the entire process, and the researchers derive robust results. A predominant example is the analysis of the paintings of various artists. The process is the following:

● Repurposing the typical image recognition

● Establishing a deep neural network

● Utilizing the neural network in the classification of images

The typical behavior that determines the onset of a hot streak is the exploration-exploitation sequence. The latter describes the two different phases in everyone’s professional life. When we set forth to discover our unique style of working and producing, we are in our exploration mode. The exploitation model follows where we occupy our thoughts with a particular target and usually achieve tremendous accomplishments.

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Dr. Wang considers this sequence eternal throughout history. He likens the exploration mode to a sampling phase, where an individual seeks opportunities and solutions. The exploitation model initiates when the individual finds out what worked out during the previous step and sticks to it. He urges us to move with caution, though, as many people fail to navigate completely in the exploration phase and move extremely swiftly to the exploitation mode. He also uses the example of Peter Jackson, the director of ‘Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson used to experiment with various niches in movies, including horror comedies. His genuine breakthrough, which was the masterpiece of Tolkien, came after years of exploration. Patience is truly a concealed virtue.

Interestingly, Dr. Wang’s notion is that hot streaks come when there is a small group of people involved in terms of team structure. It is during the hot streak that more participants in the group arrive. This happens because smaller groups formulate a common way of thinking, analyzing, and solving a problem. Once the latter is achieved, more people add to the group to facilitate data accumulation and analysis. The above is a fundamental lesson all aspiring leaders should promptly learn.

Dr. Wang firmly adheres to the utilization of Data Analysis, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning in his research efforts to determine the hot streak of an individual’s professional life. Evidence suggests at least one most prolific period in someone’s work timespan. This hot streak is elusive to the majority due to the rapid abandonment of the exploration mode in favor of exploitation. Conclusively, a team’s effectiveness is at its highest level when its initial form is narrow in numbers. As successes soar and the hot streak appears, the group usually grows in numbers.

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The #1 challenge for organizations right now is how to attract and retain talent. Organizations are stuck in old ways of thinking about work and they are struggling! In my new PDF, I outline 7 ways the workforce is changing and what you and your organization need to do to adapt. The Great Resignation is The Great Opportunity if you are willing to take action! Click here to download the PDF.

https://thefutureemployee.com/

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Jacob Morgan

4x Best-Selling Author, Speaker, & Futurist. Founder of FutureOfWorkUniversity.com. Exploring Leadership, Employee Experience, & The Future of Work