Big ideas are terrific. There’s no harm in thinking big. Acting prematurely on these ideas is the problem. Many visionaries move from start to finish in their minds quickly and skip many of the steps in between necessary for execution. That’s how they wind up trying to boil the ocean.
Are you trying to boil the ocean with your team, department, or organization? Do you move from vision to completion without building a plan of execution to determine if you are taking on more than your organization has resources to complete?
Don’t let ambition or ego keep you from focusing on your vision, mission, and objectives. Let those guide you. They’ll keep you from over-reaching and under-planning.
“‘Boil the ocean’ is an idiomatic phrase that can have a few related meanings. One is that it is obviously impossible to boil
the ocean. Where would you start? Thus boil the ocean can refer to an impossible task — something so complicated it’s hard to know where to begin.
Another definition of boil the ocean is used in business and tends to relate to projects that are hugely complex, perhaps overly so. The idea of boiling the whole ocean means that you are concerned with a minutia of fine details. This may mean that you’re being thorough or it could mean that you have made something so complex you can never accomplish your goals.
There are few potential origins of this phrase. One is typically credited to Will Rogers. When asked how the US should handle the problem of German U-boats, during World War I, Rogers recommended that the ocean be boiled. A reporter asking the question supposedly followed up by inquiring how this could be done. To which Rogers replied: ‘I’m just the idea man.’ Others attribute the phrase to Mark Twain.” – WiseGeek