Andrew Thornton on Tapping into your Human Potential

I write this at 35,000ft on the way back from India after an extraordinary week exploring what it means to access our full potential. What we were doing together was exploring a simple concept; we as humans are born with a huge potential to do amazing things and a bit like with most of our phones, computers etc., we only use a percentage of that potential.

As children, we run around freely, open, in the moment, full of joy and accessing our full potential at a primitive level. As we grow up, we start to get the tools needed to harness this potential – we learn to read, to speak, to draw, to dance; and at the same time, we learn to shut down part of us. At school, we are told don’t do this, don’t do that – “big boys don’t cry” or “be a good girl”. We start to work and our bosses very clearly let us know how they want us to behave – what is OK here and what is not. So, we slowly close down bits of us to conform and play the political game that is needed for survival in most organisations. To manage this, when we leave home in the morning, we leave chunks of ourselves on the bedside table – the chunks that are not welcome at work.

So, what if the organisation you work for could harness all your potential – how would that feel for you? How would your family benefit? Your customers and colleagues at work? How might it affect business performance?

My colleagues, Sujith and Mark, have been studying this for years, both in their corporate lives and now as they dedicate themselves to this work. And they have linked the way we access our potential to our business performance.

We are now applying this to help us understand what’s going on at Thornton’s Budgens and build the case for heartful business. Let me give you an example; having surveyed our whole team (with an on-line 20-minute assessment), we know that we score very highly as a business on “committing to a higher cause” – as humans, we all want to be part of something bigger, to do the best we can and contribute to society. It’s there in all of us, yet for many it is buried under all the protection and telling off we have received. Over the last nine years, and since we created “’The Community Supermarket that really Cares’, my team see that we are more than just a store selling Corn Flakes and pasta. They get that there is something more going on here and, that they are a part of it and indeed, help co-create it.

This helps all of us be ‘in service’ which links to a key business ‘performance metric’ for us and so many other businesses – Customer Orientation. And guess what? We at Thornton’s Budgens continue to get feedback from our customers on our service and how often we delight our customers. The ‘Human Potential’ study that we are in the process of analysing shows us this and a whole load more connections. Moreover, it shows where we could do better. Although our Inventiveness score is very respectable, I know it could be higher. The data from this study will help me and the team shape how we can be more innovative. Right now, in the UK Grocery Trade, with sharks circling and smelling our blood, we need that more than ever before.

In overall terms, I now know that we are accessing 65% of our Human Potential. I also know this is 8% higher than the control store (another Budgens store that has not implemented our ‘Heart Principles’) I also know that our sales growth is 10 points higher than theirs. So, in simple terms, each extra percent of Human Potential we access, equals an extra sales percent.

Food for thought, eh? As we dig deeper into the data and insight, I’ll share it here. Let me leave you with two questions; what percentage of the Human Potential is the organisation you are working for utilising? And what would happen to the bottom line if it could access 8% more? Answers on a postcard to me, please.

With heart

Andrew Thornton