Dominoes and the Domino Effect

A domino is a flat thumbsized rectangular block, either blank or bearing from one to six dots or pips (also known as spots) on each end: 28 such pieces make up a complete set. Dominoes are used for many different games, both in their plain and fancy forms. They can be laid down in straight lines or curved, in grids that form pictures, or in 3-D structures like towers and pyramids. They are also a powerful symbol for the concept of the “domino effect,” in which one event can trigger a chain reaction that has far-reaching consequences.

When Lily Hevesh, 20, started playing with dominoes, her grandparents gave her a classic 28-piece set. But soon she had a larger collection and started creating mind-blowing domino sets that she would post on YouTube. Hevesh has since become a professional domino artist, working on setups for movies, TV shows, and events. Her YouTube channel now has more than 2 million subscribers.

The name domino, from the Latin dominus, is a reminder that actions have consequences, and that someone in charge needs to think two moves ahead. It suggests a masterful leader who understands that the slightest touch can cause a big impact.

In business, a domino effect is an unfortunate circumstance in which the impact of one event, act, or decision can be so large that it has a ripple effect beyond its immediate boundaries. A domino effect can be positive, such as a merger or acquisition that boosts an organization’s market share, or negative, such as a scandal or lawsuit that erodes public trust.

A domino is also a mathematical polygon that has sides that are equal in length, and can be formed by connecting two adjacent squares. It is often used to illustrate the principle of distributive justice.

When you play a game of domino, you have to carefully place each piece on the table so that it is touching another end of a previous tile, either exactly or with a small gap between them. The number on the end of each domino corresponds to the value of that tile: a 1 indicates the lowest number, while a 6 means the highest. Dominoes are typically arranged in a row and each player takes turns placing a new domino, so that the end of each tile is either matching the other end or forming some other specific total.

Standing a domino upright gives it potential energy, which is stored based on its position. When that first domino falls, much of that energy converts to kinetic energy, which pushes the next domino over and causes it to set off a chain reaction that continues until the last domino topples. That is why it is important to think carefully about your strategy before placing a domino, and why it can be dangerous to rush into a deal that could backfire.