It’s fascinating how attracted we tend to be to stories of doom. What is it that makes such stories so captivating? Andrew O’Connell, HBR editor, explains why we find tales of disaster so compelling.



Link to the original HBR podcast: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/03/our-bizarre-fascination-with-stories-of-doom/



  • grit – courage and resolve; strength of character
  • gripping – exciting
  • hasten – cause (something, especially something undesirable) to happen sooner than it otherwise would
  • transcend – be or go beyond the range or limits of (a field of activity or conceptual sphere)
  • rehearse – practise (a play, piece of music, or other work) for later public performance
  • debrief – question (someone, typically a soldier or spy) about a completed mission or undertaking


Think about it

Answer the questions below.

  • Why do we love disaster stories? (1:25)
  • What are the stories of Memorial Medical Center and Charity Hospital? (4:11)
  • Who had the best idea how to rescue Chilean miners? What was unusual about this situation? What did it reveal about the character of the chief of the entire rescue operation (8:22)
  • According to Andrew O’Connel what’s the difference between choices presented in Gravity and Five Days at Memorial? (11:26)
  • Are you attracted to disaster stories?


Practice Makes Perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

Well, the centerpiece was Sherry Fink’s wonderful story about Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. ________ the few days after the storm, it was just horrible ________ the hospital. Most of the staff ________ gone, most of the patients ________ been evacuated. There was no electricity, there were very ________ supplies, there was no food, there was ________ security, there was water everywhere, and only the most disabled patients ________ left.

And, of course, what happened is some of those patients died. And the question is how ________ they die. And the accusation was that the remaining staff assisted in their deaths.

[. . .]

But the doctor and two nurses who were ________ charge were accused of, actually, hastening these deaths. And it became a big cause in New Orleans because the city of New Orleans, in many ways, rallied around them. But it’s a very interesting story because you ask yourself when you’re reading this, well, ________ these horrible circumstances, what I do. Am I going to stay there, and try to take ________ of these patients with no supplies, and no real way to take care of them, and they’re obviously suffering, and there’s no end ________ sight? What would I do?


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