Mark Vandeneijnde on ‘Bringing the heart back into business’

In 2010, after a 10-year career in a large multinational, I set off on my own. Something was tugging at my heart. Deep down I knew that I had a role to play to help organizations transition from the current paradigm where competition, productivity, control and bottom line are the main drivers, to a more abundant paradigm where collaboration, creativity, and meaning are at the heart of the work experience. There was a deep belief that if we simply create conditions for an optimal human experience, then peak performance will ensue.

To prepare myself for this next chapter I set off on a year-long journey to research the concept of “Heart in Business”. I wanted to know what it concretely meant to run a business from the heart and how it might enable breakthroughs in performance. My findings are summarized in the following video.

At the time, I did not know that Andrew Thornton was on a similar journey planting his own seeds to bring the Heart back into business. Surely it was only a matter of time before our paths would cross.

Fast forward 5-6 years. My Heart in Business research led to the creation of the Human Potential Assessment, a tool that breaks down the highly subjective idea of Heart in Business into 23 objective measures that can help organizations identify the levers that enable peak human experience.


In the meantime, Andrew and his team at Thornton’s Budgens were challenging the status quo of the retail food industry and introducing practices that encourage self-leadership, creativity and community engagement. With competition from the big retailers intensifying, an increased focus on innovation, employee engagement, and customer orientation were the only viable strategies going forward. Sure enough, the business results followed. Like for like sales went from -7% in 2014 to +5% in 2016. Heart in Business Limited was working and other retailers/businesses were starting to take notice.

It was a compelling story, but Andrew knew it would be even more compelling if the impact of the Heart Programme could be quantified and correlated with business results. This is when a mutual friend, Lawrence Bloom, who saw the complementary nature of our work, made the introduction. Since then Heart in Business Limited and Being at Full Potential have been collaborating extensively.

It was early this year when we launched the Human Potential Assessment with the entire staff at Thornton’s Budgens and the results of the study have confirmed the positive impact of the Heart Programme. The Human Potential scores of the Thornton’s Budgens store were significantly higher on all measures than the control store. A full case study document with more details of this research will be available soon.

The study also revealed some focus areas for future development. For example, the managers identified Self Leadership as an opportunity to work on and a key enabler of operational excellence. This exercise helped them realize that they are far more empowered (to take decisions) than they thought they were. They realized they have permission to act on their ideas when they see an opportunity to make things better, and this was incredibly motivating.

For me personally, working with Andrew and his team at Heart in Business Limited was a wonderful experience and has laid the foundation for future collaborations. Clearly, the complementary nature of our partnership is an ideal proposition to help other businesses bring the optimal human experience back into the heart of their organization.