The Iceberg Theory

The Iceberg Theory is a writing style characterised by a very minimised presentation of details within a story, which forces readers to read carefully between the lines in order to understand a much bigger picture than that presented.

The Iceberg Change Chart is inspired by this theory and the iceberg model of understanding culture which suggests that just like an iceberg, culture is made of a visible and an invisible part (Edward T. Hall – 1973, 1976). Icebergs are famously disproportionate in terms of visibility. You only see the top 10%, while 90% of it is hidden below the surface. Like an iceberg, the visible manifestations of culture (laws, rituals, customs, gestures, ways of dressing, food, drink and methods of greeting, and saying goodbye) are just the tip of the iceberg.  However, it is the lower, the hidden part of the iceberg (values, beliefs and norms) that is the powerful foundation of these visible manifestations.  

An iceberg is created when it breaks away from a much larger piece of ice. Alone it travels great distances and endures turmoil. However it will eventually reach warm water and melt; then it hardens to take on a new form and shape. Due to this process the iceberg becomes stronger, unique and independent.

Like an Iceberg, during the programme the client breaks away from social constructions and negative behaviours. During this time of isolation and transition they endure great turmoil, however eventually they become resilient, and reach a better stage in their lives; and it is due to this journey that they become stronger, independent and can shape themselves in anyway that they like.

The tool is named The Iceberg Change Chart as changes only represent a minute part of a persons journey, just as only 10% of an iceberg is visible above water. Most of the hard work and internal challenges that lead to change cannot be seen, but they are the causes and solutions of thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

There is always a bigger picture behind every individual’s story, which is demonstrated through their visible manifestation of behaviour (the part that is immediately evident), but impacted by their hidden experiences and interactions (unconscious thoughts and feelings). Just like an iceberg it is this invisible 90% that creates the foundations of their world.

The chart visually scores and measures change so that clients can recognise the transformations that they have made, and the perseverance that they have demonstrated. As their scores go up, their iceberg begins to become more visible above water, and they can identify what is working well, what they are worried about and what they need to do to change their circumstances.