Davis Cook

Chief executive, RIIS

With a career that spans brands such as KPMG and BlueIQ, not to mention high-level advisory positions within provincial government and host of degrees gained both locally and abroad, Davis Cook has achieved a great deal in a very short space of time.

But it’s in his role as chief executive of the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) that he’s found his most rewarding role.

“As an innovation-focused consultancy, RIIS helps organisations to adapt and remain relevant to changing economic, social, and market conditions,” says Cook.

“This means we don’t just deal with resource issues, we help our clients to understand the deeper social, generational, environmental and other factors that will impact on them as companies, as well as their staff, customers, and broader stakeholders. We want, and need, to change the world we live in.”

From a project with the South African National Space Agency developing over a dozen start-ups in the local space industry, to other projects that have helped save lives in the railway industry, or assisting emerging farmers to enter global supply chains, there’s a wealth of variety to keep Cook’s work fresh and exciting.

Apart from his achievements in business, Davis is also a Jiu Jitsu sensei, which has given him the opportunity to travel and meet people with something in common.

“One of the things that really struck me in teaching Jitsu around the world is that when things get really difficult (and we make it as difficult as possible when training), we are capable of so much more than we imagine,” he says.

When it comes to his favourite places in the world, Cook has a deep love for South Africa. He also has a deep love for Prague, but not just because this is where his partner is from.

He finds it fascinating that the Czech Republic has one of the lowest income inequality ratios in the world, something that was brought home to him quite starkly recently when he ran into one of the Czech presidential nominees, before the elections, just having a drink and a chat with someone at a local bar.

“It wasn’t a campaign tour. He lived in the neighbourhood and wanted a quiet drink,” he says. “It struck me that this is how society could be, and how I wanted my society to be. There’s a lesson there for South Africa, I’m sure.” — Kerry Haggard

Twitter: RIIS_innovate