Like most suicidal editors, I’ve decided to start a new feature: Buzzword Friday. As you know, the business world is filled with fun and colorful cliches. Sometimes people make up ludicrous buzzwords that stick. Sometimes they use old ones that have been around for ages, like, “ABC” (Always Be Closing).
Anybody can play this game. Send me your business buzzwords, ideally the most absurd possible. I must confess, my father at Raygent.com started the project and we have worked together to compile a gigantic list. It’s huge, but it’s going to get bigger. I am going to aggregate and “scale” this list in synergistic fashion. Each week I will highlight and analyze a buzzword. And eventually it will be integrated into a master proprietary database that I will spin off as an IPO. Got it?
So here goes. Today’s buzzword? Well, it’s more like a buzzphrase: “Boil the Ocean.”
I admit, I’m laughing right now. What a funny expression. This is a fairly standard buzzphrase in most executives’ vocabularly. I was reminded of it a few days ago when a VC friend of mine was describing what a company was doing. It was the perfect context: “Well, it seems like they are trying to boil the ocean.”
Investopedia (why didn’t I think of that?) defines “boil the ocean” as such: “To undertake an impossible task or project or to make a task or project unnecessarily difficult. Boiling the ocean generally means to go overboard.”
Not bad. But a little off. Let me define it it further: “To undertake a project with an insanely optmistic outlook bordering on the point of delusion.”
I give this buzzphrase an A-. It’s handy, and very applicable to many entrepreneurs, who are generally delusional. That’s what makes them fun. It’s ludicrous in its exaggeration, which is what makes it funny. I mean, exactly how hard would it be to boil the ocean?
Well, it’s come close to happening, on a small scale. In theory Fukushima came close to boiling the ocean. Yeah, that’s no fun.
Let’s do some math. I love the Internet. Somebody has done the math for me!
Fast Company consulted a number of scientists, including Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York. “It would probably require more energy than all the fuel on earth,” he said.
When an National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist was asked if it was possible to boil the ocean, they said, “I don’t think so.”
I think this is nearsighted. For example, what would happen if a giant comet struck the earth. Wouldn’t the ocean then boil?
Make no doubt about it, it’s hard to boil the ocean.