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Sorting Through the Clutter

Lord help me; I'm blogging. That is, I now have this regular blog on my website. I'm also tweeting, and posting on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I hope someday you'll find the time to "like" me.

is a way of enhancing one of my roles in the profession, one of the ways that I am trying to add value to your practice and life. I think it may be one of the most important services that business owners receive as we move deeper into the information age.

'm talking about serving as a "curator" for the financial advisory profession–both through my newsletter, through the Insider's Forum conference, through the blog and occasional tweets about what I'm seeing in the vast realm of ambient information.

What does that mean, this "curator" role, and why is it important–especially today?

A curator is the museum executive who carefully examines thousands of works of art and historical artifacts, and decides which are the most important to put on display. Most museums have between ten and thirty times as many items in storage as they have on the walls at any one time. Curators save you the trouble of going through everything and deciding what's important.

Without realizing it, I have been doing the same thing for the financial services profession.

Why is this important? Every one of us is drowning in data, opinions and ideas, some of it (I'm looking at you, Jim Cramer) downright harmful.

Most advisors I talk to have a pile of unread magazines next to their desk. Every day we have the opportunity to view another 10,000-word white paper on some subject or other. If you accepted every webinar invitation that tumbles into your emailbox, you'd be out of business in a month.

Like that museum curator, my role at Inside Information is to serve as someone you can trust to make decisions about what is and is not relevant, what's important, what is a fad and what is a trend. Increasingly, I'm embracing this role. I will sift through all that information and pass along the one-tenth of one percent that is relevant to you and your practice.

Like a museum curator, my role is to tell you: here's what's going on, here's who's doing interesting things and here's how they're doing it, here's what you should be paying attention to–and when something new happens, I'll make sure you're among the first to hear about it. If, of course, I believe it's worthy of your time and attention.

I'm also taking on this role when I review the contents of the industry magazines, telling you what they say and give you links to the full article in case you want to check something out for yourself.

As the information tide gets higher and murkier, I'm embracing the role as your personal curator, taking that deluge of information off your desk so you can get some work done without worrying about the clutter. I look for trends and find the people who are doing interesting things. I read through the white papers and attend 10-15 conferences a year, and bring back only what you really need to know. That's still a lot of information–16 pages (sometimes a few more) a month, plus the occasional special report. But it's MUCH more efficient than trying to sift through all that data yourself.

What does this have to do with the Insider's Forum? The conference (this year: September 17-19 in Dallas – is an extension of the Inside Information service. Much of our thinking about the educational sessions goes into identifying the most relevant topics and key trends in the profession. Only then do we try to identify the very best, most thoughtful speakers who have detailed expertise in these issues.

And then we're doing something that you won't see at most other conferences. We're spending time with each speaker, talking over their understanding of the trends, brainstorming a deeper dive than their normal speech, helping them uncover really interesting things to talk about, taking them out of their comfort zone.

The result is an unusually thoughtful analysis of a subject that we believe is important, presented by somebody who we think is the smartest person on this subject anywhere. As the information age becomes increasingly distracting and dysfunctional, we're providing an island of clarity–which may be the most relevant service you can find as a business owner and professional.

The curator puts the best pictures on the wall. My job, with the Inside Information service and with the Insider's Forum conference, is to bring you the most relevant topics and the best thinking available.

I think this also happens to be one of your many jobs as an advisor; to filter out the unnecessary (or harmful) noise and protect your clients from information overload. You deliver relevant insights from what any consumer would consider to be a bewildering, contradictory mess of opinions, ideas, information, articles and the constant barrage of scary headlines. Fear and greed are always a problem in the markets; they are amplified in the sound chamber of the media. You become their bodyguard against the amplifying effects of what is already a dysfunctional mental dynamic around investing. That, alone, is hard work.

I don't think anyone believes that the flood tide of data, information and opinion is going to do anything but keep rising in the future. Before long, everybody will need a curator for their own information museum–your clients, and you as you provide that service to your clients. If you see ways I can offer this service better than I'm doing it now, this is a good time to let me know, because I'm open to pioneering new, better ways to help you do the important work you do for clients.

I just hope whatever you come up with will involve more than 140 characters.