How Different Workstyles Can Coexist — California Business Journal

Leen Kawas
8 min readAug 10, 2023


Learning a valuable skill, or successfully navigating a workplace challenge, often takes careful planning and plenty of practice. Alexander Graham Bell said it best: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

However, another large cohort takes the opposite approach. They “learn by doing,” plowing through each task in a real-time fashion. If they make mistakes, they keep fine-tuning until they get it right.

At the end of the day, both types of people may be satisfied with their respective results. In the workplace, however, they may be required to share an office or a bench in a Lab. Dr. Leen Kawas provides an in-depth view of both workstyle types, how they complement each other and can be powerful together. She also offers recommendations that should help both types of employees thrive in their jobs.

Snapshot of the Classic Planner Methodology

A classic planner thrives on strategy and process. Often operating from a well-organized workspace, they develop a plan for every task or project. These templates often include “What If” scenarios about potential challenges and proposed solutions.

As a baseline, classic planners maintain an updated “To Do” list for each day’s tasks. These lists may be augmented by monthly, quarterly, annual, and five-year goals and corresponding plans.

To accomplish their goals, a classic planner allocates work time such that they can always meet their deadlines. When they put a plan into action, they typically follow through rather than changing course on a whim. Of course, the classic planner analyzes the finished product and recommends modifications to help facilitate better outcomes.

Benefits of the Classic Planner Methodology

Planning for different outcomes can have significant benefits. First, this approach provides a template that integrates needed components and logical steps into any process. This step-by-step plan also lays out stakeholders’ goals, providing participants with a roadmap for their respective activities.

Finally, Dr. Leen Kawas noted that a well-coordinated plan provides a platform for data gathering and analysis. As the plan progresses, relevant insights may uncover including success metrics, and new areas of interest giving an opportunity for optimization. The analytics-based data will also show the team’s progress toward predetermined goals.

Pitfalls of the Classic Planner Methodology

A comprehensive plan can provide multiple benefits for any endeavor. At the same time, this exhaustive plan can create angst for those who created it. First, they may think adding more research will improve the plan’s relevance. They may also repeatedly add and/or revise the plan’s content to increase its effectiveness. Stated another way, the planner wants to ensure they identify (and resolve) every potential problem before putting the plan into action.

At this stage, overplanning becomes a reflection of the planner’s desire for perfection. They overthink each decision, never committing to any potential choice. Here, their desire to control the entire process essentially immobilizes them and helps them to avoid potential failure.

Fortunately, there’s a “win-win” choice that keeps the plan’s major points while enabling its author to get moving. Creating a bare-bones guide enables constructive action while retaining the option to revise it as needed.

Two Applications of the Classic Planner Methodology

The classic planner methodology is the backbone of personal projects and business services alike. A well-coordinated plan sets the stage for a desirable outcome.

The Classic Planner Methodology in the Real World

A commercial construction project integrates planning methodology in every phase of the job. The general contractor operates with multiple documents including the scope of work, construction agreement, materials lists, contractor lists, and construction schedules, among others. Taken together, this documentation enables a cohesive project that ideally comes in on schedule and under budget.

The Classic Planner Methodology in the Biotech Arena

Engaging in biotechnology research, development, clinical studies and manufacturing requires exacting measurements and constant attention to detail.

Drug development has several stakeholders and having a classical planner that support implementing best practices, standard operating procedures, support interactions with the regulators, manufacturers, clinical sites, commercial teams, management is key for a successful effort. It is not a trivial effort to get a drug through the different stages of discovery, development, clinical testing and ultimately product launch and commercialization.

Snapshot of the “Learning by Doing” Methodology

The classic planner methodology involves planning, studying, and practicing before engaging in an event or undertaking a project. The individual takes every possible variable into account. They often devise “what if” scenarios and formulate their response to each one. In other words, they try leave nothing to chance.

The “learning by doing” methodology is the antithesis of the classic planner methodology. Also known as “ experiential learning,” “learning by doing” is predicated on the concept that performing (or experiencing) a task enables an individual to best understand how it works. If the individual makes a mistake, that’s simply part of the learning process.

Aristotle, the ancient Greek scientist, and philosopher, put the “learning by doing” methodology into more eloquent terms. “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Benefits of the “Learning by Doing” Methodology

The “learning by doing” methodology doesn’t follow a prescribed path. Despite that, those who practice this approach may receive three significant benefits. Often the preferred methodology for many entrepreneurs, those who fall into this category may experience the following benefits.

A Satisfying Personal Accomplishment

The “learning by doing” methodology is, by definition, a hands-on undertaking. Although individuals may first receive some basic instruction, they often boldly forge ahead with little direction from others. Whether they accomplish their goal with few roadblocks or make mistakes but keep going, they’re likely to feel a sense of personal accomplishment afterward.

A Truly Memorable Experience

When an individual is compelled to perform a skill while learning it, they’re more likely to internalize that experience. This personalized learning shows the value of this approach and helps to provide motivation to move forward.

A Career Growth Catalyst

Propel Bio Partners’ Dr. Leen Kawas remarked that the “learning by doing” methodology fosters an open mind and a “can do” attitude. This positive mindset can set the stage for further career development. Examples may include team leadership and promotional opportunities.

Pitfalls of the “Learning by Doing” Methodology

The “learning by doing” methodology carries two significant downsides. First, if an individual teaches themselves to perform a task or solve a problem, they may not follow the exact same sequence every time. They may also inadvertently omit key components of the sequence. Finally, even if they manage to duplicate the process, their method may not be the optimal way to achieve the desired result.

Equally importantly, the “learning by doing” methodology may not take inherent risks and/or safety hazards into account. These issues could be applicable to the biotech industry along with construction, manufacturing, and fulfillment/warehousing operations, among others.

Two Applications of the “Learning by Doing” Methodology

“Learning by doing” opportunities abound in the real world and in the workplace. In many settings, it’s possible to learn a skill or achieve a goal by combining a laser focus with sustained effort.

“Learning by Doing” in the Real World

To illustrate, let’s say an individual was intent on learning the art of weaving. Perhaps they took a three-hour beginning weaving class during which they were given a recommended supplies list. Rather than spend years polishing their skills with different designs and yarns, they simply jumped in and entered a local craft show.

To create their entry, they bought their supplies and worked non-stop to finish the piece before the show. This beginning student wouldn’t likely win a prize for their entry. However, they delved headfirst into the experience, gaining a good understanding of how to build a hand-woven piece from start to finish.

“Learning by Doing” in the Biotech Arena

The “learning by doing” methodology can also apply to biotechnology drug development. Researchers can analyze current clinical trial data and revisit previous trial data with certain parameters.

By analyzing extremely large datasets, the researchers can gain insights without recruiting thousands of study subjects for often-lengthy trials. In turn, the data analytics results enable more appropriate diagnoses and targeted treatments.

Let’s say an entry-level researcher learns the data analytics basics by watching other team members compile and present their results. Although the young researcher has never performed her own dataset analysis, she is asked to analyze the data for a key company project.

The researcher has been asked to present her findings (and recommendations) to senior company leaders in one week. If she performs well, she can gain respect and solidify her standing on the team.

Leveraging the Strength of Both Workstyles in the Workplace

More often than not, employees with two opposing workstyles must find a way to work together. Dr. Leen Kawas offers the following strategies that accommodate both types of workers.

The Classic Planner Methodology

  • Where possible, encourage planners to organize and manage their own projects. This includes setting goals and objectives along with establishing applicable deadlines.
  • Seek ways for planners to have uninterrupted time to complete key tasks.
  • Support planners in “thinking out of the box” to find innovative solutions that address workplace challenges.

The “Learning by Doing” Methodology

  • Provide “on-the-job” learners with sufficient information and time to make a well-thought decision or complete a research project.
  • Structure a project so that “on the job” learners can use their creativity to accomplish a preset goal while perhaps discovering a better way to achieve the outcome.
  • Although focusing on the process is important, meeting deadlines is key to accomplishing preset goals. Provide guidance on helping “on the job” learners to set and adhere to applicable deadlines.

Forward-Thinking Companies Accommodate Both Workstyles

Dr. Leen Kawas emphasized that accommodating employees’ respective workstyle preferences and offering opportunities for professional and personal growth, can help both types of employees to thrive. In turn, they can contribute to a biotech company’s growth.

About Dr. Leen Kawas

Leen Kawas, Ph.D. is the Managing General Partner of Los Angeles-based Propel Bio Partners. As a talented bioscientist, Dr. Kawas guides an expanding venture capital firm that supports emerging biotechnology entrepreneurs. Propel Bio Partners provides these companies with financial assistance and technical expertise. These assists enable businesses to gain a footing in this highly competitive industry.

Before Dr. Leen Kawas co-founded Propel Bio Partners in 2022, she served as Athira Pharma, Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer. In this capacity, Dr. Kawas guided several drug candidates through the development cycle. She also completed Athira Pharma’s Initial Public Offering in September 2020. Her accomplishments resulted in multiple industry awards.

Educational Achievements Provide a Solid Foundation

Dr. Leen Kawas’ notable educational achievements set the stage for her remarkable bioscience career. In 2008, this Jordanian woman earned a Pharmacy degree from the University of Jordan. She came to the United States to complete her graduate education.

She further fine-tuned her business leadership talents by participating in the Foster School of Business Executive Training Program. Today, Dr. Kawas’ well-rounded skillset contains biotech and business knowledge, enabling her to excel in a challenging (and growing) industry.

Originally published at on August 10, 2023.