Domino is a small rectangular block, either square or round, the face of which is blank and the other marked with an arrangement of dots or “pips” similar to those on dice. A domino set typically consists of 28 such pieces, although sets with fewer or more are common. A domino can be used to play a variety of games.
Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes when she was 9. She would set them up in a straight or curved line, flick the first one and watch the entire chain fall—one domino after another. These days, Hevesh is a professional domino artist who has racked up more than 2 million YouTube subscribers. She creates spectacular domino setups for movies, TV shows and events—including an album launch for Katy Perry. She has even set a Guinness World Record for most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement: 76,017.
To create a domino effect, you have to plan ahead and set out the track before you start. Hevesh starts each project with a sketch and then carefully calculates how many dominoes are needed to build the desired layout. She also outlines the track on paper so she knows where to place each piece. She tests each section of the installation before putting it all together, and she films these test runs in slow motion.
The most popular game played with dominoes is called draw, and the winner is the player who can lay a domino without exposing any of his or her remaining tiles. Players take turns drawing dominoes, and when they cannot play a tile they pass their turn to the next player. The game continues until a player cannot play any more dominoes, at which point he or she “chips out.”
In business, good dominoes are tasks that make a significant contribution to an overall goal. They are usually challenging and require a large chunk of time to complete, but once completed they have a positive impact on future outcomes. For example, writing a financial plan can be broken down into several good dominoes, such as outlining the finances, creating a budget and executing that plan. Each of these good dominoes requires focus and dedication to completion, but once finished the impact will be felt well into the future.
Physicist Stephen Morris agrees that dominoes are the perfect metaphor for a chain reaction. When a domino stands upright, it stores potential energy, or the energy of its position. When a domino is knocked over, much of this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, or the energy of movement. The same principle applies to a larger scale, with the effect often being observed in complex systems like global finance or politics. For example, when one event causes a chain reaction that leads to the collapse of an economy, it is often referred to as a domino effect. The mechanical version of this phenomenon is exploited in Rube Goldberg machines, where a series of actions are chained together to cause something large to happen.