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Difference Between Growth and Development

Growth vs Development

Contrary to what most may think, development and growth are two different things. Neither is a predecessor or dependent of the other. And their dissimilarity applies in fields such as biology, economy, corporate businesses, individual skills, and so on. Despite the words’ ubiquity, they are often interchanged and misused unknowingly.

Moreover, it is fairly easy to distinguish them from one another. Rule of thumb is that development relates to qualitative basis while growth is to quantitative measurement. In biology, growth is defined as a process by which an individual organism changes organically, progressively from a simple to a more composite stage.  For instance, the transition of an orange seed to a tall, fruit-bearing tree exhibits growth. As the seed grows, its cellular make-up becomes more complex, allowing it to grow leaves, branches, flowers, and fruits. Note that it is focused on the physical increase in size along with maturation. On the other hand, development in biology pertains to qualitative improvement even without increase in scale and complexity. For example: mental development. This definitely doesn’t concern enlarged heads, but is instead embodied in better analytical skills, wider knowledge-base,   refined interpersonal skills, higher intelligence etc. Apparently, development is more concerned with what is progressing internally.

Now when it comes to economic matters, development and growth will only make the contrast more apparent. First difference is in the scope. Economic development tackles big-picture changes in the economy, while growth looks at the minor changes. Development involves changes is investment, income, savings, and socio-economic status, while growth pertains to an increase in real output. It is often based on GDP. Furthermore, development involves utilization and cultivation of untapped resources in underdeveloped areas. Growth focuses on the optimization of resources in developed countries. Development results in quantitative and qualitative economic progress.  It covers betterment in terms of standards of living, consumer rights, freedom from discrimination, job opportunities etc. Growth gears particularly towards quantitative results. Overall, the former applies to a stationary state moving to a higher degree of stability, while the former is relevant with a consistent and gradual increase in terms of investment, output, and savings rate.

In corporate enterprises, development is more concerned with the learning than the firm’s earning capacity. It is concretized through campaigns that improve the working condition and as well as enhance the company’s stand on its social and environmental responsibilities. Examples of such campaigns are sponsored further studies program for employees, housing and retirement benefits, paperless systems, apprenticeship program and the like. Growth, in contrast, points to how much the business is making. For instance, higher profits or bigger investments easily mean growth to a particular venture.

In the context of personal growth and development, the two concepts should ideally go hand-in-hand. As a person ages – an apparent phenomena of growth – he or she is most likely to advance with her intelligence, skills, and social quotient among many others, which would be an indication of development. Another perspective would relate growth and development with possessions and riches. A person with increasing income can be considered as someone who is growing. However, that doesn’t automatically guarantee that he is developing as well. A well-developed person would be someone who’s able to thrive despite limited resources.


  1. Growth and development both pertain to a positive change or increase. The former is purely quantitative, while the latter is mostly qualitative.
  2. In economy, growth relates to the real output, GDP for instance. Development pertains to improved standards of living, more employment opportunities, better saving capacity, and the like.
  3. In enterprises, to grow is practically to increase earnings, while to develop is to improve the corporate environment through pro-employee programs, social welfare initiatives, eco-friendly processes etc.

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