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Development is often thought of as the process that leads to economic growth and progress, as well as better social conditions. In the broader sense, however, it can also refer to changes in quality of life that are less tangible. Development involves change for the better but must be appropriate and fair if it is to be sustainable. Development must involve not only growth in incomes but also improvements in health, education and the provision of public services.
Theorists who believe in continuous development see it as a gradual process of adding one skill to another, like a child growing inches taller each year. They contrast this with those who see growth as discontinuous, a series of discrete stages that take place at specific times or ages, such as a baby’s progression from being unable to conceive of object permanence to learning about numbers.
There are many assumptions around development, ranging from whether or not it is determined by genetics and biology to whether or not people are active participants in their own development. Some theorists, such as Piaget and Erikson, suggest that people are passive participants, at the whim of their genetic inheritance and environment, while others, such as Rogers and Skinner, believe that humans play an active role in the development of their behavior.
Managers can support their employees’ developmental needs by framing conversations in terms that are outside of organizational and team constructs, such as ‘personal growth’ or “developing your communication skills.” Providing sample projects or tasks that mirror real work allows employees to practice the skills they need without the added stress of actual job demands.