Dominoes and the Ripple Effect


Domino is a game that involves the placing of small, rectangular tiles or blocks in front of each other. Each piece bears a number on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The numbers, which are known as “pips,” are arranged in one of two suits: the suit of six, and the suit of zero. The most common domino sets contain 28 pieces. Larger sets are available for more advanced play.

Dominoes are a powerful metaphor for the ripple effect of our actions and choices. We can either choose to create a positive chain of events, or we can allow negative events to spiral out of control. As a book editor, I frequently encourage my clients to think of every plot beat in their novel as a domino that can be tipped over by the next. This is not an easy task. Tipping over fifty thousand individual dominoes one by one can be tedious and not very exciting. But if you can imagine the impact of a whole series of dominoes falling in quick succession, the process is much more exciting and satisfying.

In 2009, Domino’s began an ambitious and bold new marketing campaign. Helmed by then President of USA Operations J. Patrick Doyle, the campaign promoted a self-aware attitude that put the company in a very different light. It featured Domino’s leaders and employees reading scathing critiques of the company and its pizza in public, and it was a remarkable example of straightforward accountability and self-deprecating honesty.

The company also restructured its organization, promoting a flat hierarchy that allows its leaders to make more decisions and respond quickly to customer feedback. It also made use of technology to improve customer service and increase efficiency. Domino’s now offers a variety of ordering options, including mobile apps and online ordering.

Hevesh is a domino artist who creates intricate installations that often involve hundreds of thousands of dominoes. Her largest designs can take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but she says there is a physical phenomenon that makes them possible: gravity. “When you stand up a domino upright, it stores energy in its position,” he says. “But when it falls, much of that energy is converted to kinetic energy.”

Hevesh tests each section of her designs before putting them together. She takes special care to place each piece with precision and to ensure that all the pieces fit together perfectly. She often uses a camera to record her work in slow motion, which allows her to make precise corrections. Once she has tested the entire layout, she begins arranging the pieces in the proper order and linking them with lines of dominoes. The biggest 3-D sections go up first, followed by the flat arrangements, then the lines of dominoes connecting all the pieces together. She also tries to minimize the amount of space between each domino in a layout so that they will fall in close proximity to one another, which will increase their speed and accuracy of movement.