India has been facing a jobless economic growth for more than a decade now. (See here and here This means that the economic growth is capital intensive but not labor intensive. The GDP growth rate is at an average of 7%, yet unemployment is growing. We have not been able to create enough jobs for the new workforce which is entering into the market every year. What does this indicate about the development of the nation ?

This prompts us to understand the difference between growth and development.

Does child growth and development mean the same ? No, they don’t. Here growth typically means that a child is growing physically, increasing in weight, height, etc. When we say child development, it means that the child is developing in terms of his/her cognitive, emotional and interpersonal skills. This means that the child is undergoing an all round development, that helps him/her to engage successfully with complex situations as the environment changes.

What about economic growth and economic development ? A country’s economic growth is normally measured in terms of it’s GDP, foreign direct investments, etc, but it’s development is measured in terms of per capita income, human development index, quality of life, poverty alleviation, etc.

Clearly growth and development need different kinds of tools, ingredients, strategies, resources and even understanding.

What about an organization’s growth and it’s development ? An organization’s growth implies an increase in it’s revenues, profits, number of employees, number of offices, increase in stock price, venture capital, etc. What does it’s development mean ? We often come across reports in the media about companies that have performed well in terms of it’s growth parameters. How often do we hear people talk about or write reports or stories about a company’s development ?

What does an organization’s development involve ? Any organization is a social system, and it’s heart and soul is the individuals who are part of the system. Development of an organization happens when it’s individual develop, when it has a positive work culture, a strong leadership, people are able to come together to work towards a shared goal and it’s values are well articulated and nurtured.

One obvious distinction between these two phenomena is that growth measures are tangible whereas development measures are not so tangible. It is not straight forward or possible to measure accurately an organization’s culture, it’s leadership, employee satisfaction, job enrichment and various such factors. This makes it difficult for us to pay attention to the development of an organization, but that is no excuse for ignoring this aspect. If an organization cannot create and sustain an environment where people are at their best, it will become enormously difficult to increase and sustain growth.

Paying attention to both growth and development is a fine balancing act, that needs a solid strategy, continuous learning, diversity in thinking, deep listening to yourself and people around you, self-awareness and most of all, great leadership ! 

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