This was an conversation between Obama and Cameron that was picked up by ABC microphones which they had not known were on. It captures something that I feel strongly about, they call it the "dentist's waiting room" - the way that your day at work gets chunked up into lots of little meetings, one leads into another leads into another.
Its a great piece of unscripted honest dialogue.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to actually do any proper thinking in a day like that - can't be done.
You have to give yourself time to actually do the thinking that goes into work. Sadly I actually have to schedule that Thinking Time into my diary otherwise people think that it looks empty and adds meetings in. The idea that the only constructive time is meeting time fills me with despair. And I actually think that we have a pretty good meeting culture at work...
Obama: "Somebody who had worked in the White House who - not
Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process - said that,
should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to
do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is
thinking . . .”
Cameron:“These guys just chalk your diary up.”
Obama:“Right. In 15-minute increments . . .”
Cameron:“We call it the dentist’s waiting room. You have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.”
Obama:“And, well, and you start making mistakes, or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel . . .”
Cameron:“Your feeling. And that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions.”
Obama:“That’s exactly right. And the truth is that we’ve got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know 10 times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you’re trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you.”