The web and innovation culture have given us access to countless ‘thought leaders’ and inspired us with bold new ways of thinking about what’s possible. Now, organizations and individuals are looking to one another for "thought partnership"—conversations that help them turn inspiration into strategy.
As a small company working with large technology firms, we've learned some difficult lessons about how to navigate the corporate world. As the white, male founder of a firm, but with 'hidden' diversity (all of our current employees qualify as at least one protected class, such as women, members of the LGBT community and/or disabled) I have seen a lot of conversations where people assumed I was one of the old boys' club, and had at least as many where I was definitely not in the 'club.' What I've learned is that mentorship is the second prize: sponsorship is what really matters. I first heard the term 'sponsorship' at the BlogHer Business, Entertainment and Technology conference a few years ago. In contrast to the (useful) mentorship and coaching models, which are mostly about advice in a private setting, sponsorship is the concept of lending or giving tangible and intangible resources to others to help them get a leg up—like reputation, connections, leads, money or access