Dominoes Is More Than Just a Game

Dominoes are long, flat tiles with a line down the middle to separate their two sides. Each side is marked with an arrangement of spots, called pips, like those on the face of a die. A domino has the ability to trigger a chain reaction, with one piece tipping the next in a carefully arranged sequence until all the pieces fall over in a beautiful cascade. Dominoes are not only an entertaining pastime for children, but they can also be used to build intricate structures, such as a grid that forms a picture when it falls or 3-D towers and pyramids.

As a result, dominoes have become an icon for the idea that small actions can lead to big consequences—an effect known as the “domino effect.” It is not uncommon to see dominoes constructed in elaborate lines on which players compete to set up the most complex sequence and watch it come down with the nudge of just one single tile. In fact, there are even domino shows, where builders compete to knock down the most impressive structures before a crowd of fans.

Dominos also have a place in the business world as a metaphor for how things can suddenly take a turn for the worse. In a story told by entrepreneur Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, the tale involves the founders of a company that was doing well until a customer complaint was ignored. This was a huge mistake, and the company began to suffer.

The founders realized that they had lost sight of what had made the company successful, and they decided to change course. They started by listening to their customers, addressing the complaint, and recommitting to their core values. As a result, the company’s fortunes turned around in short order.

In a domino game, each player begins with a double-six set (91 tiles) and draws seven of the most matching ones from their hand. The player then places a tile on the table, which starts a line of play. The other players then pick up and play a domino that matches the first player’s tile. The game ends when either a domino is played that no one else has or when it reaches a point at which neither player can continue playing. The winners are the partners whose combined total of spots on their remaining dominoes is lowest.

The word “domino” comes from the Latin verb dominate, meaning to dominate or to overtake. The word was used in English as early as 1750, but it became more common in French about a decade later. The earlier sense of the word referred to a garment worn with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade; it may be that this influenced the design of the domino pieces, which were once made of ebony blacks and ivory faces to resemble a priest’s cape over his surplice. This article was programmatically compiled from various online sources using the program Wordnik.