Magic Formula

15th October 2021

Creativity is not an unfamiliar noun for many of us who indulge our love of needle and thread, and nor is it a fresh topic of discussion for this newsletter. But we recently happened upon an article by Elissaveta M Brandon that promised to unpack the one thing that the world’s most creative people have in common, even going as far as touting it as a magic formula.

How could we not read on?!

What ensued was a fascinating discussion about how researchers used artificial intelligence to study the careers of thousands of directors, scientists and artists that culminated in the discovery of a single trait that the most successful among them had in common.

‘The secret to creativity lies in hitting hot streaks, or bursts of repeated successes.’

Whilst creative success can be hard to define and even harder to achieve, the study sought to uncover a pattern of work that existed across the disciplines they were examining. Using artificial intelligence, they combed through a large selection of data relating to the fields of work represented that allowed researchers to identify a pattern that existed across each of them. The author of the study believes the pattern can also apply to other creative pursuits.

Essentially, the pattern is that the artists experimented with a range of formats, styles and ideas for months – or in some cases even years – before they focused on a single one of their experiments. The hot streak came when a single experiment was ‘exploited’ rather than just explored. 

The idea of a magic formula arose when the researchers realised that the genius was in the order – first exploration, then exploitation.

Exploration involves trying new things and experimenting throughout the process. Whereas exploitation is referred to as moments of intense focus where a single craft is honed, and expertise is then developed. 

The study concluded that the key to creative success lies in finding the balance between exploration and exploitation, reminding us that whilst you can’t just keep exploring forever, nor should we dive straight into something without trying a range of different things first.

I guess that means we should be jack of all trades before master of one?!

Has your time with needle and thread followed the pattern of exploration then exploitation? We’d love to hear if this has been your magic formula to creative success or if your journey followed a different path to the same result. 

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