How do successful collaborations start?

For literally no reason, I’ve looked back at the last 15 years of collaborative projects I’ve been a part of — in an attempted to find patterns in how the successful ones originated. Here’s what I found…

Key takeaways:

  • Most successful projects originated as an introduction by a mutual friend.
  • Projects that include an in-person conversation in the early stages are more likely to succeed than those that remain digital throughout.
  • No successful collaborations resulted from being hit up on LinkedIn.
  • Sector conferences, meet-ups and events are excellent for finding collaborators. Usually it’s in the break between sessions, or in the bar afterwards, where partnerships start.
  • Conferences/events in my chosen sector are only slightly more likely to kick off successful collaborations than those in similar sectors, however they’re much more effective than those for totally different sectors.

How the successful collaborations started (in order):

  1. A new project, with a new collaborator, introduced by a mutual friend
  2. Newly discovered shared interest with long time friend, peer or colleague
  3. After meeting someone at a sector conference/meet-up/work event
  4. After a chance meeting at a party/exhibition/performance
  5. Connected via email
  6. Connected via Twitter
  7. Connected via LinkedIn*
  8. Cold called at my desk in the middle of the day*

0% of successful collaborations originated from a LinkedIn mail or connection request, or being cold called.

Final thoughts:

The percentages around starting a successful collaboration are comically close to those regarding dating. Just saying.