Carnegie Mellon University

Sridhar Tayur

April 25, 2018

Academic Capitalist

Professor Sridhar Tayur is an imaginative thinker who conceives of, and then implements, creative solutions to problems within and outside his domain.

Sridhar Tayur solves long-standing problems thought to be intractable through unconventional ideas. Despite no training in the health care industry, in 2011, he introduced OrganJet, a company that helps match people who need a kidney or a liver transplant with available organs and ensures them fast transportation via private jet to the transplant center. By creatively fusing his expertise in supply chain management, matching supply and demand across the country (and continents), software development and the private-jet industry, he devised an unorthodox solution that overcame the decades-long impasse of getting candidates who most need a transplant to suitable organs in different geographic areas — more quickly and affordably.

“I came up with the term ‘academic capitalist’ to describe myself because I conceive of some imaginative shuffling of basic principles from many different domains — combinatorial creativity, I think it is called — and then I ask myself how I can actualize it into practice in our world, where the role of money cannot be ignored,” Tayur, the Ford Distinguished Research Chair and professor of operations management at the Tepper School of Business, said. “There are times when this actualization requires entrepreneurship, and I have done it.”

He previously envisioned a different way of optimizing global supply chains. He created the market for “enterprise inventory optimization” software by founding SmartOps in 2000 to commercialize his research. The company was acquired in 2013 by SAP SE, the European multinational corporation whose enterprise software drives businesses across the globe.

Tayur teaches his students his methodology: understand deeply the problem you are investigating, then examine critically what has been done (and why), and decide which of two approaches works best: try to improve what is already being done (“incremental”), or invent a solution that has not yet been conceived (“imaginative”).

With a personal style that favors invention over improvement, Tayur recognizes that he and CMU fit well together.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have been as free-spirited in other schools. In some sense, structure hammers you into a narrower being.” Tayur said. “If you’re already narrow, it doesn’t matter.”