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Matt Beane
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Emerging Technology / AI, Robotics & Automation / TED Speakers / Future of Work / Hybrid Work & Work From Home / Generative AI / Health Care & Medicine


  • Matt Beane: How do we learn to work with intelligent machines?
    Matt Beane: How do we learn to work with intelligent machines?
  • AOM Scholars On… Top 2023 Trends in the Future of Work
    AOM Scholars On… Top 2023 Trends in the Future of Work
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    Matt Beane: U.S. can lead robotics race with China
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    Matt Beane: Robo-sabotage is surprisingly common

Learn More About Matt Beane

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic systems are increasingly prevalent in business today, and their influence on how we work will only grow from here. What’s going to happen to the workplace? How will jobs change and what do executives need to do now to prepare? According to Matt Beane, University of California, Santa Barbara Technology Management professor, for all the opportunities these technologies create, they’re also having unforeseen impacts on learning and innovation.

“The way we learn and build skills today is changing itself,” says Beane, a digital fellow at the Stanford University Digital Economy Lab and MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy. “The headlong introduction of sophisticated analytics, AI, and robotics into many aspects of work is fundamentally disrupting traditional on-the-job learning, which has always been a time-honored and effective approach.” 

Author of the forthcoming book, “The Skill Code: How to Save Human Ability in an Age of Intelligent Machines” (Harper Business, June 2024) and a leading social scientist and former principal for a management consulting firm focused on group and team dynamics, Beane studies the relationship between humans and intelligent technologies. His research shows leaders, including CEOs, chief technology officers and human resource executives, that as tools become more sophisticated, workers get fewer opportunities for mentorship that involves practice and learning from mistakes; the very kind necessary to effectively leverage those sophisticated tools. As a speaker and advisor, Beane’s unique expertise at the intersection of AI and the future of work provides practical frameworks for leaders to develop strategies for implementing tech solutions while enabling workers to simultaneously build skills and connections with each other and enhance an organization’s human capital.  

Our Chimeric Future with AI: Bringing Mentorship Into the Future

With workers becoming disconnected from each other when humans are removed from adjacent tasks, Beane points out that a mindful approach to AI system adoption is vital. The solution, he explains, is to automate and augment so everyone benefits.

“You can automate in a way where the tide lifts all boats,” says Beane, who was named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2021. “It’s possible to apply automation such that it will empower experts to improve the quality of their output and the quality of their job as a result. It’s more satisfying, more fulfilling and workers are more productive. The same can become true of the employees they work with.”

With highly automated systems leading to fewer opportunities to learn through hands-on instruction, some workers are turning to unvetted resources like YouTube videos to see examples of expert work. With in-person, hands-on learning becoming rarer, Beane says we must find new, AI-enabled avenues for mentor/mentee relationships.

Such a relationship could take the form of AI-enabled skill and task matching systems, online skill repositories and newer hardware like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)-powered systems that will intelligently connect expert and novice workers, allowing them to develop skills jointly. It’s what Beane calls “our chimeric future.”

“An infrastructure like this would do for skill what the internet did for knowledge: it would become a place where we’re all contributing to and extracting value from a dynamic resource,” says Beane, former Chief Human-Robot Interaction Officer of Humatics, an MIT-connected, full-stack IoT startup. “We need a global learning infrastructure that doesn’t leave the skill haves and have-nots further apart. Organizations that build a 21st century “SkillHub” like this will be relevant and successful thanks to an adaptive, engaged workforce.”

Implementing AI While Enhancing Human Capital

Beane points out that while newly automated tasks may improve output quality in the near-term, the unintended consequences of removing humans from the process and siloing duties can be detrimental to an organization. With workers becoming increasingly disengaged and young employees unable to take advantage of traditional skills-building avenues like mentorship and apprenticeships, he says it’s critical for leaders to understand how individual jobs are connected and how their employees learn skills in the first place.

“Many times, leaders don’t realize they may be making a trade-off for better productivity while snapping the bonds between experts and novices,” Beane explains. “Leaders need to be committed to the notion that it’s possible to implement a tech solution while enhancing these bonds – and the skills that flow from them.”

Beane drills down the most important aspects of quality skills development within expert-novice relationships with “The Skill Code.” For skill to flourish, he’s found, work needs to involve healthy forms of “three Cs”: Challenge (difficulty and struggle), Complexity (broad, multi-dimensional context), and finally the irreplaceable human Connection (bonds of trust and respect). With research-backed checklists, his ideas can guide leaders and workers everywhere to set the stage for optimal skill development – even while putting automation to work.


Matt Beane, University of California, Santa Barbara Technology Management professor, has conducted extensive studies on robotic surgery, robotic materials transport and robotic telepresence in health care, elder care and knowledge work. His research appears in top management publications such as Harvard Business Review and Administrative Science Quarterly. Named a Human-Robot Interaction Pioneer, Beane is a regular contributor to such popular outlets as Wired, MIT’s Technology Review, TechCrunch, Forbes and Robohub. Beane has also served as a founding executive at Humatics, an MIT-connected, full-stack IOT startup, and a principal for a management consulting firm focused on group and team dynamics.

Beane graduated from Bowdoin College with a degree in philosophy. He received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Matt Beane is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Matt Beane was last modified: April 3rd, 2024 by Justin Louis

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How to Adopt AI While Protecting Human Capital

Artificial intelligence and robotic systems allow organizations to streamline processes and ensure output quality, but they can also have unintended consequences. In this eye-opening presentation, University of California, Santa Barbara Technology Management Professor Matt Beane explains that we are unintentionally removing humans from processes and siloing tasks, which can lead to employees becoming disengaged and behind on building skills. An expert on human-machine interaction, he’ll illustrate how on-the-job learning, the traditional route for skill-building, is under threat, but there are ways to bring it back stronger than ever. Audiences will gain strategies for implementing tech solutions while enabling workers to build skills and connections with each other, greatly enhancing an organization’s human capital.

Skillsharing and Mentorship in “Our Chimeric Future”

With on-the-job learning and mentor/apprentice relationships falling by the wayside due to increased automation, how will novices learn from experts in the future? In this fascinating presentation, University of California, Santa Barbara Technology Management Professor Matt Beane will describe what he calls “our chimeric future.” He’ll outline a vision for a global learning infrastructure that will match mentors and mentees through artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. Explaining that such systems will allow workers to build skills by connecting with experts, regardless of location, Beane gives audiences a window into a future where virtual on-the-job learning will still be possible and just as vital as it always has been.

Activating Quality Skills Development with The Skill Code

Think of your most valuable skill, the thing you can reliably do under pressure that delivers results and looks like magic to those nearby. How did you learn it? In this engaging presentation, University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Matt Beane reveals how his years of research shows that traditional ways of learning, like mentor/apprentice relationships, are being threatened by the insertion of new technologies between junior and senior workers. Beane will draw on his upcoming book, “The Skill Code: How to Save Human Ability in an Age of Intelligent Machines” (June 2024), to reveal his research-backed framework that accounts for quality skills development. This code consists of “the three Cs”. Audiences will learn how to ensure the healthy version of this “skill code,” including Challenge, Complexity and Connection. Beane explains what the skill code is, how it’s being threatened, and what a hidden group of “shadow learners” can teach us in rewriting the skill code for human flourishing in the 21st century.

Finding Innovation in the Shadows of Your Organization

According to University of California, Santa Barbara Professor Matt Beane, the way we’re redesigning work to take advantage of intelligent technologies is a key reason we’re not yet seeing massive, related gains. We’re driving innovation into increasingly illegitimate places – the shadows of our organizations. As Beane explains, today’s workers have fewer approved opportunities to experiment and adapt on the job. Why? Because sophisticated tools like artificial intelligence are making it easier to watch and measure employee behavior, pushing them to less observable and appropriate practices to learn and innovate. We can still innovate and adapt in this shadowy environment, but the standard playbook won’t do, says Beane. In this presentation, he explores deviance in work involving machine intelligence. He also shares his vision that flips the current reality into one of distributed, AI-enhanced organizations that empower us to innovate out in the open.

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Advance Praise for "The Skill Code"

“With riveting stories, 'The Skill Code' offers a timeless recipe for skill development and thriving at work in the age of AI.”

Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership, Harvard Business School; Author, "Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well"

“With academic rigor and actionable insights, Matt’s watershed book offers a new approach to skill development that aligns the age-old realities of expert-novice collaboration with the innovative potential of intelligent tools.”

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab; Co-author, "The Second Machine Age"

“In this vital book, Beane focuses us on an immediate, hidden concern: that today’s powerful technologies give people fewer opportunities to learn as they try to master a difficult craft.”

Andrew McAfee, Author, "The Geek Way"; Co-author, "The Second Machine Age"

“If you’re worried about your skills becoming obsolete, this book may be your saving grace. Matt Beane has spent his career studying how to gain and maintain expertise as technology evolves, and his analysis is both engrossing and edifying.”

Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of "Hidden Potential" and "Think Again"; host of the TED podcast WorkLife

"Beane shows us the true human-centered approach to AI advancements and how we must act now to achieve the next generation of human skills coupled with the productivity gains from AI.”

Fei Fei Li, Sequoia Professor of Computer Science, Founding Director of Stanford Institute for Human-centered AI (HAI), Stanford University

“There has never been a more important time for this book—nor anyone more qualified to explain what it all means than Matt Beane. 'The Skill Code' teaches urgent lessons.”

Ethan Mollick, Author, "Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI"; Professor, Wharton School of Business

“Beane delivers an essential, meticulously-researched roadmap for combining intelligent technologies with the way humans have built skill for thousands of years to reach our brightest possible future.”

Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder, Inflection AI and LinkedIn; Partner at Greylock

“Matt’s decades-long curiosity about human work positions him perfectly to offer such a thoughtful and well-researched guide to skill development in this age of generative AI.”

Jeff Wilke, Former CEO, Amazon Consumer; Chairman, RE:Build Manufacturing

“'The Skill Code' is a compelling reminder of the timeless importance of human guidance in an increasingly automated world.”

Hadi Partovi, Founder and CEO,

“Matt Beane’s 'The Skill Code' is a rollicking read, it’s magnificently researched, and, above all, a relentlessly useful and timely playbook.”

Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor; Eight-time New York Times bestselling author/co-author including "Good Boss, Bad Boss", "Scaling Up Excellence", and "The Friction Project"