The Domino Effect in Business and Leadership


Domino, a small flat, rectangular block used as a gaming object. Its ends are either blank or marked with a number of spots–called pips. Traditional domino sets have one unique piece for each possible combination of numbers from one to six spots. Larger sets are also available.

Dominoes are most commonly played for blocking and scoring games, but they can also be adapted to play many other games. A common variant is Five-Up, in which each player draws seven tiles from a stock of 28. The 28 tiles are shuffled face down before drawing. Then the tiles are placed on the board in front of the players so that their value is visible, but the players cannot see each other’s tiles.

When a domino is knocked over, much of the energy stored in its potential motion is transmitted to the next domino. This is called the domino effect, or the “collision of action.”

The domino effect is an example of one of the simplest ways to apply the law of conservation of momentum. As a domino moves forward, it has a tendency to resist motion, so the first domino will be pulled down before the rest of the set falls.

However, if the first domino is slightly pushed or tipped in an unusual direction, it will send a chain reaction that can end up knocking down thousands of other dominoes. That energy is then transferred to the next domino, pushing it over as well.

There is no doubt that the domino effect can be a powerful force in business and leadership. For instance, in his book Influence, Robert Cialdini explained how one can apply the domino effect to achieve a goal.

For example, one could use the strategy to select the most important tasks for the day and focus exclusively on them until they are completed. These tasks would be considered the “main domino,” and once they were finished, the momentum created by completing them would carry the entire team forward for the day.

Similarly, when an organization makes a commitment to a specific action, people will often stick with that commitment because it’s in line with their values and self-image. When Domino’s leaders made a commitment to listen to customers and address their complaints, they began to make changes that helped the company succeed.

In addition to listening, Domino’s was able to implement other strategies that have worked wonders for the business. For instance, the company began to promote a culture of open communication and leadership training.

These initiatives helped the company to improve employee morale, which ultimately sparked a turnaround in its business. They also encouraged employees to speak up and address problems they felt were affecting the business.

While this approach wasn’t new to the Domino’s business model, it was a step in the right direction for a company that had been losing money for years and lacked strong leadership. In 2009, the company was led by Patrick Doyle, who promoted a self-aware attitude that emphasized accountability for mistakes.