You probably think we’re crazy. It’s -38 degrees Celsius in Montreal and most of us would be dreaming of a trip to Cuba. But as designers, (and after reading an excerpt of NPR journalist Eric Weiner’s hilarious travelogue, The Geography of Bliss) we’ve decided we’d rather go to Iceland.
Iceland produces more artists and writers per capita than any other country on earth! And the weird thing is, they’re happy, productive artists and writers. Despite the cold and lack of sunlight, they somehow avoid turning into turtleneck-wearing, coffee-swilling harbingers of doom. How?
Icelanders embrace failure
Actually, according to The Geography of Bliss, Icelanders admire failure! Makes sense right? If you’re free to fail, you’re free to try. To some extent, we North Americans also have this attitude. But as Weiner astutely points out, we love a good failure story only if it’s followed by subsequent success. And spectacular success at that. Like Stephen King publishing “Carrie” after being rejected 30 times! No one gives you permission to try various things, fail and then move on to new things. That just makes you a failure, right?
Not if you live in Iceland.
Here, kids are encouraged by their parents to form garage bands, but without the pressure of commercial success. Everyone knows that they probably won’t come to anything, but it’s the trying that counts. It is probably this sort of freedom that allowed Bjork, that most famous Icelander, to evolve from her early days as part of the girlband, “Spit and Snot” to become the musical icon she is today.
This freedom to fail also allows many Icelanders to lead what feels like multiple lives. Not Sybil-like multiple personalities, but experience amassing diverse skill sets. In Reykjavik, you’re likely to meet someone who’s been a professional chess player, journalist, music producer, construction company exec and theologian. Yeah, that’s one person (and Eric Weiner actually interviews him in the book!)
Just take a moment to think about what this kind of freedom to fail means. The freedom to try just about anything, knowing you’ve got a social safety net beneath you.
Oh, and another thing, Icelanders don’t do “jealous”!
Yup. Instead they collaborate. Because their focus isn’t on the money and fame and other spoils of “success”, Icelandic artists channel their energies into working with each other instead of competing. If a band needs an extra guitarist, reports Weiner, another band will lend them one. Which is not to say that there is no sense of competition. Just that Icelanders practice competition in the way the word was originally intended: the Latin cum petere means to strive together.
Makes you want to get on Expedia right now, doesn't it?
Well, that’s the kind of culture we’re striving for here at mookai. We're trying to give ourselves that kind of permission to really think outside the box (even when it scares us) and to collaborate with others in our industry so we’re making design better. Always. For everyone.
One day, soon, we may just fly to Reykjavik. Until then, we’re going to let Iceland wash over us. Maybe pop some Bjork on the sound system, pour ourselves a beer and... fail a little...