Dominoes and the Domino Effect


A domino is a small, flat, rectangular block used as a gaming object. Also known as bones, cards, men, pieces or tiles, dominoes can be stacked end to end in long lines. When the first domino in a line is tipped, it causes the rest to fall. This process can continue for many rows until all of the dominoes have fallen. Very complex designs can be created with dominoes.

Some people collect them, while others use them for games such as stomp and draw, where dominoes are placed on the ground or in a box and then tipped one at a time. Dominoes can also be arranged to form 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.

In the past, dominoes were made from ebony blacks with ivory faces. The word “domino” and the game itself were both introduced in France in the 1750s. The word may have been derived from an earlier sense of the term, which denoted a long, hooded cloak worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade.

Dominoes have become well known for their ability to create chains of events that culminate in a spectacular display of falling dominoes. This phenomenon has led to the popularization of the phrase, the domino effect. A domino effect describes a single action that leads to a series of greater—and sometimes catastrophic—consequences.

For example, when Jennifer Dukes Lee started making her bed every day, it seemed like a trivial act. However, when she did so four days in a row, she found herself following the habit and cleaning other areas of her home as well. This domino effect grew into her establishing identity-based habits and a whole new self-image.

Another example of a domino effect is a computer virus that spreads from one machine to other computers on the same network. The spread is often accelerated by user errors, such as clicking on links or downloading software from questionable websites.

While this type of domino effect is not common, it can occur in the business world as well. A successful business leader can have a domino effect when she or he initiates a series of actions that lead to success.

In business, domino actions are small victories that have a great impact. A domino action is a small victory that triggers a series of other victories. This can be as simple as tipping over a single domino to create a chain reaction, or it could be more involved, such as the launch of a major project that has a large scope and broad impacts. These are the types of projects that most leaders dream of initiating—and the ones most likely to have a domino effect.