Contracts as sources of innovation

Published: 02 Oct 2019 Average Rating: unrated Print

Author: Tim Cummins

'Trade is the spark that lit the fire of human imagination, as it made possible not only the exchange of goods, but also the exchange of ideas. Trade also encouraged specialisation since it rewarded individuals and communities who focus on areas of comparative advantage. Such specialists had the time and the incentive to develop better methods and technologies to do their tasks.'

That quote comes from an edition of The Economist, almost 10 years ago, reviewing a book by Matt Ridley that addressed the importance of human optimism (a major theme for IACCM this year, with further research to be unveiled at the IACCM Americas conference in November).

Contracts and trade

Contracts sit at the heart of trade. They are the 'boundary objects' that define roles and responsibilities, reward and consequence. In addition, as other recent research by IACCM confirms, they influence whether or not innovation and continuous improvement occur (report available on the IACCM website).

It is this culture of striving for continuous improvement that drives and provides incentive for innovation, enabling human aspiration to become a reality. However, such aspiration is rapidly undermined in an environment that is seen as punishing or risk averse – the characteristics of many of today's contracts. Assumptions of failure or disaster are frequently self-fulfilling. The IACCM research confirmed that those who place their primary focus on protecting against risk thereby discourage cooperation and limit the exchange of ideas.

A heavy responsibility

If indeed it is trade that sits at the center of our future success and, more broadly, our ability to prevent disaster (including, for example, from climate change), then the contracts community has a large and heavy responsibility to ensure it is not only removing barriers to innovation, but that it is also itself innovating in the methods through which trade occurs. We have a duty to ourselves and others to ensure that we contribute to the cultural and economic forces behind human progress.

“Thanks to the liberalising forces of globalisation, innovation is no longer the preserve of technocratic elites in ivory towers. It is increasingly an open, networked and democratic endeavour”, says Ridley. Contracts can – and must – create environments where openness, transparency and networked communication are encouraged and rewarded and where cultures of blame, risk allocation and punishment are avoided.


Related Discussions

Please sign in or register to post on this forum

STC Solutions
2020-08-27 12:28:02


very in interesting subject
Replies: 1

2020-08-12 06:46:49

The end of Procurement

Hello Tim I found your article very interesting. I agree that procurement struggled for years to prove its real value, and it is still struggling. Firstly. Until the ...
Replies: 1

KEO International Consultants
2020-05-26 13:02:59

Negotiation effectiveness

What are the fundamentals and effective tools to be taken into consideration before negotiation meetings. Please share negotiation cases initiated from both parties. I...
Replies: 1

Toronto transit commission
2020-03-27 15:19:59

Commercial Management Structure, Model, and Governance in Public Sector

Hi Everyone; Hope you and your loved ones are doing well and staying safe! We are in the process of Commercial Management Function establishment. We do have Materia...
Replies: 1

2019-12-17 11:22:11

Agenda 2030 and public procurement driving it

Lately, I have come across strong initiatives in the Nordic countries that intend to drive Agenda 2030 and all it´s goals by embedding the content within the public pr...
Replies: 4

Pretorius Consulting
2019-09-18 17:50:21

Pricing Article Changes

Does anyone actually price changes to the Articles of the contract? For example, changing the venue for arbitration (5% of the contract value) or the change order pro...
Replies: 3

Pretorius Consulting
2019-09-18 17:43:44

10 Pitfalls to Avoid in Contracting

I note that the post is from November 2015. Would you say that the statistics for these 10 have remained the same in 2019? Is it possible to get more information abo...
Replies: 2
2018-10-12 14:32:00


A great article. Roles and responsibilities are often overlooked. We instead, as a buying organisation, like to define how something should be delivered.
Older entries »
Replies: 3