Domino is a game played with a set of small rectangular blocks, each twice as long as they are wide. Each is marked on one face with an arrangement of spots resembling those on dice; the other faces are blank or identically patterned. The value of a domino is the number of spots on the one facing it, or “pips.” A domino may be “heavier” than another by the total number of pips on its ends; heavier tiles also have more pips per end and thus can be stacked more closely together than lighter ones. Unlike cards or dice, dominoes can be used for many different games.

Dominoes are often used for a variety of positional games where players take turns placing dominoes edge to edge against each other so that their total number of pips matches a specified number or a given total. The games are usually adapted from card or board games and were once popular in areas where religious proscriptions prevented the use of card games. Today, dominoes are most often used to play positional games for fun or entertainment.

In her most complex domino projects, Hevesh builds 3-D sections involving hundreds of thousands of individual pieces. She tests each section separately before putting them all together. Using her knowledge of physics, she works with gravity to ensure the entire arrangement falls as intended. “The biggest 3-D sections can take several nail-biting minutes to fall,” she says. “But once they do, you can see the whole structure come to life.”

Aside from knowing a lot about science, Hevesh’s ability to create incredible designs comes down to one physical phenomenon: gravity. When she knocks over the first domino in a new setup, its inertia pulls it toward the Earth, which then pushes on the next domino until it eventually falls.

Hevesh’s work shows that domino effects don’t have to be limited to physical arrangements, but can apply to everyday life. A small win right after you wake up can dramatically increase your motivation and momentum throughout the day. A little change in a habit can trigger a domino effect, like when a person reduces their sedentary leisure time and suddenly starts eating healthier.

When the CEO of Domino’s, David Brandon, left the company in 2004, it was clear that something needed to be changed fast. New CEO Steve Doyle refocused the business on its core values, including championing customers. This included listening to complaints and implementing changes, such as a more relaxed dress code and better leadership training programs. This enabled Domino’s to make significant progress in improving its bottom line and turning around the business.

The Domino Effect