The Domino Effect

Dominoes are a favorite for kids and adults alike. We’ve all seen those amazing domino constructions, where the first tiny domino is tipped ever-so-slightly, and then a beautiful cascade of action takes place. But there’s a deeper lesson to be learned from this little game of chance—that a few small actions can have an outsized impact, just like the domino effect.

Domino (also referred to as bones, cards, men, pieces or tiles) are small rectangular blocks with a printed surface that features rows of dots, called pips. The value of each domino is determined by the number of pips it has on each face, or ends. Each end of a domino may feature a value of zero, one, three, five, six, or eight pips, depending on the type of domino. A domino is normally twice as long as it is wide, making it easier to re-stack the pieces after use. Some domino sets have a line in the middle to divide them visually into two squares, with a greater value on one side than the other; this variation is known as a double-six domino.

The physics behind a domino’s power is fascinating. A University of British Columbia physicist demonstrated this when he set up 13 dominoes, each one about 1.5 times larger than the previous domino. He used a laser to create an accurate model of the physics at play. The key is that a domino’s center of gravity has a high concentration of energy, so it only needs to be slightly tipped before it begins to tumble toward the ground.

Hevesh, who has worked on projects involving 300,000 dominoes, says she follows a version of the engineering-design process when she is creating her mind-blowing setups. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of the piece, then brainstorms images or words that she might want to include in the design.

She also focuses on the physical properties of the dominoes. “I choose the materials that are going to be the best for what I’m trying to do,” she says, adding that she’s experimented with various types of stones and other types of wood to find the right materials for her dominoes. She has also tried out different types of metals.

She’s also paid attention to the company’s employees, including those who work in the restaurants and deliver the food. In the most recent episode of Undercover Boss, she sent CEO Don Meij to work in one of the chain’s busiest restaurants to see how workers are delivering on the Domino’s values. Meij listened to employees’ concerns, focusing on ensuring they have the tools and training they need to be successful. The result was that Domino’s employees were more engaged and committed to delivering great customer experience—just as they are expected to do every day. Then they were able to pass that enthusiasm on to customers. This is a powerful example of the Domino’s value of Champion Our Customers.