This week, I attended a meeting of heads of like local organizations, to see if we can find ways to work together. Most of us were strangers to each other. It was the first time that many of us met.
During the course of the two hour discussion, many ideas were shared. Common struggles were confirmed. Priorities were exposed that converged into common themes. My impression was that everyone in the room was both smart and committed.
What I found interesting is that some in the room, spoke with great confidence around big ideas. Grand ideas. Idealistic outcomes. Painting them as immensely important needed outcomes. For them, it did not appear that they were interested in details or small wins. It was their grander schemes that will make the world much better. Almost inferring that their grand ideas were superior to all others. Making their egos feel good by thinking they are sharing something really smart.
It reminded me of this phrase of “let’s boil the ocean”! Certainly an impossibility for any of us to achieve. Yet the simplicity of the words makes it seem so easy to do.
That’s the way it is with grand ideas. Each of them wants to boil an ocean.
They always sound so logical and easy to complete.
When I hear people embrace these types of ideas, I immediately peg them as not being good at execution. That they have little experience at being directly accountable for results where humans are involved. Nor could I count on them for help, as they would get bored with the mundane details needed to execute on, what they would consider, a smaller idea.
There is a messiness and a time lag in achieving tangible outcomes when living our day to day lives. Much more effort is needed, than we first thought. to get meaningful outcomes to appear. If you operate and are directly accountable for results, you know first hand that the result may be directionally correct but most likely will still be incomplete and imperfect.
Let’s boil the ocean is a seductive phrase that we should never fall for. Narrowing our aspirations and projects are what will move us forward. In a more meaningful and tangible way. With consistent effort and resilience to navigate any setbacks along the way, we have a much better chance of crossing the ocean, we once wanted to boil, to a better place for all.