Ina Nikolova – Change(s) Processes

Joined Kinzo in 2019

A short introduction to you: What and where did you study? How long have you been with Kinzo?

I studied architecture at the Art Academy in Stuttgart, as interdisciplinary work was important to me from the very beginning. Throughout my studies, I was allowed to attend courses in other fields including industrial design, fine arts, art education, graphic design, and so on. Moreover, a strong focus was placed on the history and theory of architecture and design.

After my studies, I worked as an architect in building construction for several years, with a focus on construction in existing buildings, as well as laboratory and school construction. I also had teaching assignments on housing construction and design at two universities. After a few years in this field of activity in Stuttgart and Berlin, I was looking for more dynamic projects with a shorter duration and a more frequent exchange with the actual users of the buildings. This is how I became a part of the Kinzo team in the summer of 2019.

What is your role at Kinzo?

At Kinzo, I am currently the project manager for the BIH Digital Labs project. For over a year, I have also been working on a project developing the new working environment of a company with around 600 workplaces, which is in the process of breaking away from the classic format of the individual office and experimenting with new constellations. The topic of change is relevant to all our projects. After all, our work always involves, among other things, accompanying change processes that are closely related to the built environment. These processes take very different forms depending on the experience of our clients, whether more flexible working models have been utilized for years, or whether this topic has only recently become relevant.

What does “change management” mean? To what extent does it affect the design or the „classical“ work of the (interior) architect?

(Interior) architecture never happens independently from the dynamics of the world of users. After all, our work is usually a reflection of the philosophy and wishes of our clients. That is why every project is unique. All of us at Kinzo deal with change processes on a daily basis. Some customers work with external change management companies to prepare them for the constantly changing requirements of the new working world. We accompany the change processes in close cooperation with their spatial effects. People are creatures of habit – and it is understandable and quite natural to feel anxious when familiar processes and organizational patterns are altered. After all, it is much more than just choosing new furniture and colors. Our job is about understanding the motives of companies for these changes and removing the concerns that sometimes arise. Through communication, these concerns can be negated and a design for the working environment can be chosen which fits the user’s identity. This is achieved by working out the benefits of these changes through dialog and by choosing a design for the working environment that fits the user identity. Just because a room type works well for one company does not automatically mean it is suited to another. This is also the challenge – to suit the needs of the customer without losing the creative requirements. At Kinzo, we attach great importance to internal exchange – we are constantly learning from the experiences of other project teams.

How do you rate success in CM? / When were you successful?

A project is successful when the users feel comfortable in their own premises – when productivity increases along with employee motivation. Both the management and the employees should be happy. In my opinion, a workspace is never completely finished – a good project should give workspaces the opportunity to develop and adapt flexibly to the needs of the user. However, we are designers first and foremost and have the creative ambition to create exciting rooms with a high quality perception that also represent our customers to the outside world.

How do you stay up to date with changes in the working world / working environment / change processes? Do you attend further education courses?

In addition to the usual exchange with colleagues, trade media and lectures, I am currently attending a one-year training course as an agile coach with the title „Game Changer“ at The Why Guys in Braunschweig. The term „change“ means the modification of an existing structure – ideally, a Game Changer is already involved in the analysis of the old structure and helps to formulate clear goals and needs. He or she accompanies the change process in a flexible and agile way, presents workshops and supports the development of solution approaches. Experienced coaches help me in my training so that I can develop my own way of working and thinking, as well as honing my communication skills and my understanding of group dynamics.

My goal is to be able to identify problems and challenges, to put myself in the shoes of the person or group for whom these tasks need to be solved, to develop innovative approaches using various methods, and to support people and companies in these processes.

What could still evolve in these areas in the coming years and what should (interior) architect firms pay attention to? Finally - what changes would you wish for the future? (concerning CM)

Both our society and our work are constantly adapting. The pandemic has shown us that we need to be able to rethink quickly and change the way we live and work. Flexibility and agility are becoming increasingly important, the boundaries between individual disciplines are becoming more blurred, and digitization has given us almost unrestricted access to information.

Every day we learn something new about the challenges that companies face on the road to change (Open Space, Activity Based Working, Shared Desks, etc.) Forcing change is not constructive in the long run – the important thing is to recognize the potential and the need for change at the right moment – and to not be afraid of it.