By Dean Whittaker

Economic development has been defined as the process of creating wealth.  How wealth is created is changing, according to Ed Morrison ( of the Purdue University Regional Development Center. Therefore, how economic development is practiced needs to change too.

Wealth has been created through top-down, hierarchical, competitive command-and-control structures based upon a military model with fixed boundaries as seen in companies like General Motors and many others. The new structure that is emerging is an open-source network structure based upon innovation through collaboration within industry clusters.

With this shift comes a change in how successful economic development is practiced.  Learning how to build collaborative networks inside economic clusters requires that we understand the economic clusters within our region and how to foster these networks of economic activity.

In Ed’s recent webinar on “Strategic Doing,” he said that there are four basic questions that he asks groups to consider when beginning the “Strategic Doing” process.  These are: 1) What could we do together, 2) What should we do together, 3) What will we do together, and 4) When will we get back together?

Ed described his efforts to teach collaborative skills and move quickly from strategy to action.  He said that “Strategic Doing” leads to new value streams with a focus on people rather than organizations. As networks emerge, thinking shifts from vertical hierarchical to horizontal thinking.  Trust and respect develops, and innovation is created with open-source intellectual property under creative commons.  The result of the process is innovation networks with shared outcomes.

Learning how to guide conversation within these networks using appreciative inquiry is an important skill economic development practitioners need to acquire. Other skills needed are how to convert opportunity into measurable outcomes, building trust, and asset mapping, along with how to link, leverage, and align resources.  To learn more, please visit Ed’s website at .

My hats off to Ed and his colleagues as they introduce this new economic development paradigm. I also want to thank Eric Canada of Blane Canada Limited for bringing us this informative webinar through the Professional Learning Lab series.