The Domino Effect in Business

Domino, from the Latin dominus, means lord or master, and has long been associated with block games that encourage careful rule-making. But domino is also a metaphor for a series of events that begin with one small action and ultimately result in much larger consequences. The word has even inspired a popular phrase—domino effect—to describe actions that create a chain reaction with dramatic results.

In a business context, the term domino is often used to refer to a leader or organization that takes an active role in motivating and empowering employees. This type of leadership is a direct contrast to management, which tends to be more bureaucratic and top-down in nature. It is this difference that has led to the development of different theories of leadership.

One such theory, called the “domino model,” focuses on employee engagement. It advocates that employees must be involved in decision making and in defining company values. In turn, leaders must listen to employees and respond to their needs. While this approach may not be a complete fix for the problems faced by many companies, it is a step in the right direction.

Another approach is called the “domino principle.” This theory emphasizes that the key to success is in listening and responding to customers. This is especially important in a competitive marketplace, where customer feedback can be a powerful tool. Domino’s, for example, has a strong reputation for quickly addressing customer concerns. This has enabled the company to grow and thrive.

Domino’s Founder and CEO, Dave Brandon, has emphasized the importance of listening to employees and customers. He has made it a point to personally attend leadership training programs and speak directly with workers to learn what is going well and where improvement can be made. This has engendered a culture of accountability and transparency at the company, which has contributed to its success.

When a person sets up a line of dominoes and then nudges the first piece ever so slightly, all the others tumble in a beautiful cascade of rhythmic motion. But how do they actually work? Physicist Lorne Whitehead explains that when the first domino falls, most of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, or the energy of motion. This energy travels to the next domino, which then provides the push that causes it to fall. The process continues on down the line, until all the dominoes have fallen.

When Domino’s builder Hevesh set up a mind-blowing domino set, thousands of individual dominoes stand in place, each waiting for the slightest nudge that will propel them to their ultimate fate. Hevesh follows a version of the engineering-design process to create her setups. She considers the theme or purpose of her installation, brainstorms images or words to inspire her, and then carefully places each domino so that it will have the maximum effect.