Domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic with one side bearing identifying marks and the other blank or identically patterned. The identifying marks are typically an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice, though some sets use more readable Arabic numerals. The word also refers to a game played with these blocks, in which players position them edge to edge on the table so that their exposed ends match each other (one’s touch two’s, or five’s touch four’s) and, in doing so, set up a chain of adjacent dominoes.

When the chain is complete, all the dominoes are knocked over in careful succession. The result is a spectacular sight that has inspired many to build and compete in domino shows, where builders set up hundreds or even thousands of dominoes in careful sequence, all of which eventually topple with the slightest nudge. The power of the domino effect is a common metaphor in popular culture, referring to any event that cascades or spreads into an unexpected direction.

A figurative domino can be a person who tarnishes an image, or a political situation that causes other problems. The phrase can also be used to describe a series of unwelcome events that disrupt an individual’s life, or a series of setbacks that create a sense of hopelessness. In the latter case, a domino effect can be triggered by anything from losing a job to getting caught driving while drunk.

The domino phenomenon can be seen in leadership as well, where a leader’s decisions can have a large impact on the company and its workers. This is seen clearly in Domino’s Pizza CEO Don Meij’s decision to drop third party delivery services and instead focus on improving the company’s own service. This change shook up the traditional way Domino’s delivered pizzas, but it addressed the biggest complaint customers had about the company.

Domino has also been at the forefront of new technology for ordering pizzas, including allowing customers to simply text an emoji and using devices like Amazon Echo. The company’s dedication to continuous innovation helps it stay competitive and prevents stagnation in the industry.

For novelists, a domino effect can be helpful when developing scenes in a story. If a scene doesn’t advance the plot in any way, or it isn’t logically connected to the scene ahead of it, it may be a weak point in the narrative that needs to be strengthened. This is particularly useful for writers who are pantsters and don’t create detailed outlines of their plot before writing. With a few simple scene dominoes in place, they can weed out scenes that don’t fit.