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Scaling Peter Pan

NewCo SF has wrapped and our Director of New Business, Carolyn Centeno has been reflecting on the companies she encountered and how they’ll maintain their Peter Pan magic as they grow.  


It’s not every day you get to peek inside some of the world’s most influential disruptors. At NewCo festival, a conference that takes place in San Francisco inside various company headquarters, I was able to step inside the offices of companies such as Pinterest, Uber and AirBnB amongst others and hear their executives speak about their explosive growth, plans for the future and unintended influence on the world. They were not jaded or gate-kept away from the community but expressed a positivity, a creative freedom and an unabashed openness that allowed them to think beyond limits and silos. Their headquarters were physical manifestations of their company’s purpose – Pinterest a physical scrapbook, Uber a sleek limo, Airbnb an apartment with unique furniture – the excitement was palpable. There was a Peter Pan-like magic to each of them. And yet, there seemed to be an underlying sense of fear that perhaps some of this magic would be lost as they grew in size and influence.

It made me wonder: How can you keep this creativity and passion alive as you scale?

1. Positivity & Creativity Freedom
When the future seems uncertain, limiting beliefs and unnecessary fear kill creativity. The thing that keeps companies functioning at their highest and most creative is a positive mindset – one that sees opportunities rather than obstacles.  Celebrating the success of others and bringing a positive mindset can be infectious throughout an organization.

2. Intentional Focus
To avoid becoming a one trick-pony, these companies need to ensure they continue to develop a pipeline of disruptive and innovative ideas and multi-disciplinary jam sessions. Their focus must be laser sharp on the biggest bets and they must create strategies that will shift and transform.

3. Mature Empowerment
True disruptors outgrow their competitors and their industry. In their next phase of growth, they need leaders who are cool under pressure, maintain a strong point of view and consistently behave compassionately and fairly; leaders who empower and trust others to create an environment for their teams to flourish autonomously.

4.  Tools to Scale
As companies increase in scale and employee/business size, they find it hard to get everyone on the same page. When there are more people to answer to and bottom lines targets become much bigger, the pressure increases. To scale at size, tools are essential: roadmaps, workshops, online learning platforms, or videos to name a few. They need ways to get behind the growth in a personal but structured way.  

I’m excited for companies like these to keep their Peter Pan-like magic as they focus, grow and scale.  Not growing up in the way the world expects them to but in the way that allows them to continue to fly.


Illustration by Alison Haigh.

Carolyn Centeno is Director of New Business at Wolff Olins New York. Follow her @CarolynCenteno