If we explore Iceland’s culture through the lens of the 6-D Model©, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of Icelandic culture relative to other world cultures.
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
With a very low score of 30, it is clear that in Iceland hierarchy is established for convenience, superiors are always accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise. Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative.
The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
Iceland’s high score of 60 in this dimension indicates that it is a highly Individualist culture. This translates into a loosely-knit society in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families. In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative. Also, within the exchange-based world of work, hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do.
A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner/best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.
A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
With an extremely low score of 10, Iceland is considered a definitively Feminine society. In Feminine countries the focus is on “working in order to live”, managers strive for consensus, people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. Incentives such as free time and flexibility are favoured. Focus is on well-being and status is not shown or emphasised.
This dimension, Uncertainty Avoidance, has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings anxiety with it, and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.
Iceland’s low score of 50 shows that it is a fairly pragmatic culture in terms of Uncertainty Avoidance. This means that both generalists and experts are needed. There is a focus on planning, and these plans can be altered at short notice and improvisations made. Emotions are not shown much in these societies; people are fairly relaxed and not averse to taking risks. Consequently, there is a larger degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices, or food.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
With a low score of 28, Iceland, therefore, has a normative culture. People in such societies have a strong concern with establishing the absolute Truth; they are normative in their thinking. They exhibit great respect for traditions, a relatively small propensity to save for the future, and a focus on achieving quick results.
One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are socialised. Without socialisation we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. A tendency toward a relatively weak control over their impulses is called “Indulgence”, whereas a relatively strong control over their urges is called “Restraint”. Cultures can be described as Indulgent or Restrained.
Icelandic culture scores 67 in this dimension, meaning that it is an Indulgent country. People in societies with a high score in Indulgence generally exhibit a willingness to fulfill their impulses and desires, especially with regard to enjoying life and having fun. They possess a positive attitude and have a tendency towards optimism. In addition, they place a higher degree of importance on leisure time, act as they please and spend money as they wish.