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Recession = More Creativity + Higher Rates of Entrepreneurship

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Roughly two weeks ago, T-Mobile UK aired a commercial featuring a flash mob taking over a train station with a smartly choreographed dance routine. Saatchi & Saatchi created this brilliant video, earning an impressive viral following.*

In spite of tough times--or perhaps because of them, as a recent study suggests--creativity is on the rise. The Creative Group found that 40 percent of marketing and advertising executives surveyed believed leaner budgets resulted in more innovative campaigns, and T-Mobile's new "Life's for Sharing" ad series certainly lends credence to the theory.

If a downturn potentially drives creativity in large companies, it seems likely that startups would be given an even greater boost. Stephen Fuller, the Dwight Schar faculty chair and public policy professor at George Mason University, believes exactly this, that a byproduct of the current recession will be a growth in levels of creativity and the number of small businesses.

Fuller explains that in good times, people stick with the status quo, but when things slow down, circumstances like unemployment will "activate" an entrepreneurial drive. This is perhaps the same reason people start businesses during good times, but necessity spurs action. "There's always opportunity in adversity," he says.

"There are tens of thousands of firms that succeeded that were founded in a down economy," he continues. And indeed there are, according to research firm Inside CRM, which lists some big-name companies like Burger King and MTV. "Some of the unemployed are out there starting the future AOLs and Apples. If I knew who they were, I'd invest in them," he jokes, perhaps half-seriously.

* The elite advertising firm is hardly the first to use flash mobs as a way to generate publicity. In fact, the idea is more often associated with small groups like Improv Everywhere, which use Internet forums and social networking sites to organize "scenes of chaos and joy in public places"--not for business, but for fun. This just goes to show that while big organizations can execute great productions, the most novel ideas often spring from humbler sources.

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