Problem Solver Says Secret Weapon is Empathy

Absolut, Gatorade and Pizza Hut. These are just a few of the companies that have come to Marco Marsan, the "billion-dollar problem solver" with Marco Polo Explorers, asking for innovative ideas that can improve their businesses. For over a decade, Marsan has employed a specific methodology to create new ways for corporations to remain productive.

“Empathy is the ultimate problem-solving tool,” says Marsan, an author and self-proclaimed “idea engineer and corporate anarchist. “If we want to solve problems today, we have to be able to effectively influence others.”

Whether it is an advertising campaign, steering teenagers away from dangerous behaviors or keeping terrorism at bay, Marsan says, “The ‘my way or the highway’ approach doesn’t work.” He continues, “By suspending preconceived beliefs, we can solve problems from a blank slate.” Marsan adds that smart people always gather data and think about the consequences of actions before making a decision.

According to Marsan, there are five benefits of employing empathy in business, all of which work when talking about safety:

1. Higher level of response: “Advice is always given to us, whether we seek it or not. But, we’re more likely to accept a suggestion if we feel the person relating it has actually listened to us and considered our dilemmas.”

2. Greater loyalty: “At work, employees gravitate to bosses who understand and sympathize with their job and home concerns and, in turn, they work harder out of a feeling of mutual respect.”

3. Fewer challenges: “… Understanding the daily issues [a coworker] faces may encourage more teamwork and lessen the amount of time spent bickering.”

4. The evoking of passion: “As seen in this political climate, candidates who can genuinely convey their compassion to the plights of voters often have the largest grassroots organizations run by volunteers.” The same is true of employees. If management is passionate about safety, employees will support them and adopt that attitude.

5. Meaningful solutions: “Parents, reflecting on their child’s point of view can positively impact their child and strengthen the relationship, simply because the parent fully appreciates their child’s perspective.” The same is true of employers and employees. When employers or supervisors are empathetic to employees’ concerns, employees perceive them to be caring and are more willing to work with them to improve safety and productivity.

Marsan’s latest book, “The Lion’s Way” (, is set in an alternate version of the Roman Empire. Marsan shows how even the best intentioned governments can become corrupt, “As we are seeing everyday, good ideas can certainly go bad,” he explains.

Marsan, who has written two other books about business and self-development, notes the strategies used to solve problems is what will determine whether or not there will be success.

“Empathy will make you money, build relationships and steer you in the right direction rather than you taking a bad first step,” says Marsan. But, he adds, “You have to be brave enough to apply strength from a soft approach.”

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