Dual Paradigms in Economic Development

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Understanding both traditional and innovation-based
methods of economic development

In one of the very first Economic Development Navigator newsletter articles, we introduced the topic of rethinking how economic development is done given the waves of change occurring across our increasingly global economy (see: Searching for a New Dynamic). Since that time, the drum beats of change continue to grow louder as we focus more and more on the “innovation economy,” the “creative class,” and on the opportunities and challenges of disruptive technologies.

Five years later, we have decided to revisit that theme by attempting to crystalize the essential elements of both traditional economic development as well as innovation-based economic development. To be entirely clear, we are not saying that “old is bad” and “new is good.” Each has its place in the economic development pantheon of paradigms and methods. Instead of an “either/or” situation, this falls into the “both/and” camp in that EDO professionals can pick and choose from both paradigms to fit best with their community’s profile and aspirations. In fact, one might even envision a single community pursuing economic development under both paradigms (with sufficient resources, of course) to foster bricks-and-mortar development as well as technology-led, innovation-based development.

Below is our review of the two paradigms, with the traditional economic development paradigms/methods to the left (in green) and innovation-based economic development to the right (in blue).

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