Less Lindy Effect, More Triple Lindy

it gets no respect!

Less Lindy Effect, More Triple Lindy

The Lindy Effect says things that have survived should continue to survive.

Originally theorized by a group of comedians at Lindy’s deli in New York City, the idea was the more a comedian shared full versions of their material on TV, the shorter their career would be.

It was based on the (new) idea of TV shows. If a comedian did a weekly full show, surely they’d run out of material. This was, therefore, a bad career move.

However, if a comedian just played guest spots and special (shorter) gigs, they could stretch their career out for years or even decades.

Over time, the concept morphed.

Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot turned it into a prediction formula. The more appearances a comedian made, the more they could be predicted to make in the future, he theorized. Basically, popularity requires repeat exposures, so the more exposures a comedian makes, the more durable their popularity. It made more sense.

Nassim Taleb would take it even further. Taleb added that the very exhibit of repetitions could be carried into the future, at an even increasing rate. A book that has been around 40 years could be expected to be around more than 40 years.

All of this is to say - a lot of smart people have theorized how good ideas are durable. They’re hard to kill, which makes good, intuitive sense. But.


But not all ideas are good ideas.

This is where The Triple Lindy comes in.

In the classic 80’s flick Back To School, Rodney Dangerfield’s character goes… back to school. He’s a street-smart business man and he’s taking modern (for the times) 80’s classes. It’s dated, but it’s Rodney Dangerfield, so it’s ridiculously stupid fun.

His character helps bring reality to the classroom. He has no time for business theory. What’s the point of modeling how you’ll build a factory on a blackboard if you’re not considering what product you’re ultimately making, how much it will cost to pay off the politicians, or comparing unit costs to overseas options?

Good ideas are real, world tested ideas. Even a comedian knows it.

And bad ideas - they’re mere theories. Untested or overused in a lab. Comedians know this too.

Sometimes you see a lucky idea too. They’re ideas that only worked because they showed up at the exact right place in the exact right time, but they’ll be revealed as bad ideas once the place or times change.

We can and should apply Lindy more broadly.

If we’re looking for the best ideas, we’re looking for real world evidence alongside sharable stories.

In the movie, Dangerfield’s character grows up doing stunt dives. It’s a ridiculous bit of backstory. It’s an even more ridiculous bit of comedy.

But, it’s hard to forget.

Real businesses, based on real ideas, that work in the real world because they have real stories attached to them - these are the companies we want to build and work for.

Ideas are infinite. Good ideas are not. Test them out and get your rep’s in with the good ones - that’s the key to surviving well into the future.

h/t Howard Lindzon on The Intelligent Investor who brought this movie up. It’s a Comedy Central re-run classic I must have watched pieces of a million times in the 90s/early 2000s. And, as it relates to business building, I think he’s onto something here.