We’ve long-admired the prolific and seemingly effortless Icelandic creative spirit, but perhaps never questioned how a country so small produces so much. Now, a study by a group of University of Kansas psychologists is looking into what’s behind the remote island’s creativity. What’s exciting about their findings is that rather than what we see as dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery, which is no more than that to Icelanders, it’s the way they raise and teach their children that makes the difference. A sense of independence and equality, fostered by giving children the freedom to learn through play, is the key to their creativity and imagination.
It’s not gone unnoticed that some of the most innovative contemporary artists working today hail from Iceland. Björk, Ragnar Kjartansson, Katrín Sigurdardóttir, and Olafur Eliasson (who, to be fair, is half Danish) are all known for taking unique, interdisciplinary approaches to their art. The country, with a scant population of around 330,000, is also host to a thriving microcosm of designers, writers, and musicians.
Iceland has consistently ranked among the most innovative countries in the world. Indeed, one in four people there work in creative careers; a whopping one in 10 have published a book. The small nation boasts some 7,000 creative companies, and a growing number of creative jobs, despite the impact of 2008’s massive economic crisis.
While outsiders have long suspected that the island nation’s isolation and striking natural environment are key drivers of this creative boom, a new research study, published in the Gifted and Talented International journal, has found that various other significant factors can more directly account for why Icelandic people are so creative and innovative.