n the book, Finding Oz, Evan Schwartz tells the story about how prior to becoming an impresario of children’s adventure tales that began with The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum – the J. K. Rowling of his age – failed. He failed at a series of careers and nearly lost his soul before setting out on a journey of discovery that would lead to the Land of Oz.
His journey, riddled with troughs, sounds a lot like the history of MENA region when it comes to the work we used to do and the international recognition that it got for its creativity and effectiveness. A series of failed attempts punctured our first steps on the international stage. And as we tried to be more global/universal in our ideas to be recognized on that international stage, we nearly lost our soul too as we started to lose what makes our cultures, their intricacies and their anxieties special.
In the book, we see that the Land of Oz resides in one’s imagination (or dreams, as in the movie version). Oz was an idea, and a fantastic one at that. It was an abstract kingdom that rose above the biosphere of the ordinary. Much like the MENA region is rising today, through the power of its ideas and is not intending to hit the troughs again.
We’ve all heard that when a mind is stretched by a new idea, it will never return to its original position. We’re looking at creating ideas that make the people in our region question things that are previously unanswered, ideas that move people and change perspectives. Ideas that dissolve boundaries between the east and the west, between generations and between genders, that remind us of what is possible, and that encourage us to think differently, to probe at the adjacent possible.
In other words, today, we are like Dorothy from Kansas who is finding Oz, craving a cyclone of ideas that will raise our minds and those of the people in our region out of their cognitive Kansas, transforming us from within and transporting us to our own Oz – a re-imagined land where everything is possible and awesome.
As people in MENA and as an industry, we have become broadcasters and programmers of our cultures, of our lives and of what makes us so unique. We don’t just passively take in. We produce and publish. And so it is up to us to get the kind of ideas from our region out in the world that will spread and collectively upgrade our region and our people. It is our responsibility as co-authors of this new web of ideas to tell great stories, to enliven our imagination, to stretch our brains beyond the cognitive Kansas.
In Finding Oz, as you complete the book, the story of Baum ultimately reveals how failure and heartbreak can sometimes lead to redemption and bliss, and how one individual can ignite the imagination of the entire world.
Imagine how one region can ignite the imagination of the entire world.
Here’s to the new MENA.