Informing Adaptation under Booms and Busts

63 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2016

See all articles by Yiqing Lü

Yiqing Lü

New York University (NYU) - New York University (NYU), Shanghai

Date Written: May 1, 2016


Leading employees to adapt to changing market conditions – e.g., increased competition or technological change – is an important concern for managers in many business situations. Insufficient adaptation may arise either because employees do not have the information necessary to adapt or because they are not sufficiently incentivized. This paper considers a contracting problem in which a principal is privately informed of market conditions and wants to induce an agent to choose the adaptive project that best fits these conditions. The contract plays a dual role in both motivating and informing the agent. Here, the principal faces a trade-off: A contract that reveals the market conditions fosters adaptation, but it may demotivate the agent. In a dynamic setting, the equilibrium contracts never fully reveal the market conditions, ultimately resulting in insufficient adaptation. My model predicts that adaptation will be ineffi- ciently delayed in booms but happen early in busts. Both cases exhibit organizational inertia and path-dependence: There is a tendency toward continuing old projects.

Keywords: adaptation, informed principal, incentive contract, commitment, inertia

JEL Classification: D23, J41, M52

Suggested Citation

Lü, Yiqing, Informing Adaptation under Booms and Busts (May 1, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Yiqing Lü (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - New York University (NYU), Shanghai ( email )

1555 Century Ave
Shanghai, Shanghai 200122


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