Guest Post: ‘Surfing the Asian Wave’ by alumnus Steve McGinnes

Steve McGinnes (BA Anthropology and Communication Studies, 1994) is a writer, speaker and business leader. He tells us about what he’s been up to and his recently published book, Surfing the Asian Wave: How to survive and thrive in the new global reality.


I’m a world ‘expert’, business leader, speaker and TV Pundit – all because of what I learnt in a Goldsmiths lecture theatre.

And I have written a book on it: Surfing the Asian Wave: How to survive and thrive in the new global reality (published by Marshall Cavendish).

The power dynamics around the world are shifting and COVID-19 has accelerated those changes.

Warren Buffet said ‘The 19th Century belonged to Britain, the 20th Century to America, the 21st century belongs to Asia’.

The Macroeconomic and power shifts that were expected to happen over the next 5 to 10 years will now be in place by the end of 2020. The world is changing, and to stay wedded to a Western-centric world view is to soon find yourself on the wrong side of history.

I studied Anthropology at Goldsmiths during the cool Britannia years. For me, the time, the mood and the subject were transformative. It literally changed my whole way of seeing the world.

That way of seeing as stayed with me. Goldsmiths showed me that my background was just one background. That my perspective was just one perspective, that my values, my priorities, my vision, my ambitions were wholly my own, and not shared by others.

That my way of seeing the world was just one way. It wasn’t the only way.

Most people and businesses do not realise that. They project their vision, their values and their expectations onto other people, other businesses and other cultures. The results are not pretty.

80% of CEOs believe that their future business growth should be outside other home markets, but that lack of cross-cultural understanding within their senior teams will hold them back. When global business mergers fail, 60% of the time that failure is attributed to a lack of cultural understanding.

But that misunderstanding is not about sitting in the wrong chair, or handing your business card out in the wrong way – it’s deeper than that. It is fundamental misalignment on what then other side wants, feels and believes. Unfortunately, the deal may collapse or the relationship sour, without either side ever realising what the problem was.

Trump, Xi Jinping, trade wars, belt and road, Hong Kong protests and COVID-19 coverage are the public manifestations of this.

That’s where I come in.

For 15 years I have been living in Asia working with big global companies, punchy local players and some funky start-ups, helping them launch, grow or just be, well, better at a what they do. I help them understand and appreciate the other viewpoints and to adapt their products, business model and communication accordingly.

Over time, with my anthropology hat on, I identified 10 key areas of convergence and divergence, including: power, face, corruption, time and risk. I amassed a wealth of anecdotes and examples gathered face to face from academics, entrepreneurs, diplomats, scientist and educators. With my anthropology textbook at my side I pulled together the leading research on the various aspects and then worked out how to make it understandable and digestible. This becomes a set of tools I would dip into for various projects, interviews or speaking engagements.

I believe passionately that if we understand each other better the world will be a better place. That we can work more effectively for the ecological future if we align on what ‘future’ means’. That we can only achieve a fairer world if we understand what the other half of the world thinks ‘fairer’ actually is.

But I can only reach so many people one-to-one, so I wrote this book.

I hope its unapologetically clickbaity title will help make a serious topic more approachable, that its easy style will make the subject matter enjoyable and that the anecdotes, research and clear actionable recommendations and insights will actually help people.

You might like it. It’s available in good (and bad) bookstores. From Amazon, book depository and the rest. It’s on Kindle and Apple books. In the next couple of weeks, it will go up on Audible too.

I’d love to know what my fellow Goldsmiths alumni think. Please let me know – my contact details and a few links are below.


Steve McGinnes 2

Steve McGinnes is a writer, speaker and business leader. He graduated with a pass-able Anthropology degree from Goldsmiths in 1994.

He works with companies across a range of categories, including Danone, LVMH, Wyndham Group, Yum! and Coca-Cola.

He is a regular ‘expert’ guest on BBC World News, including the below appearances:

You can reach Steve at or through