Consulting is a profession that can lead to exotic places. We spent April in Japan, conducting several team planning events and learning about a rich and intriguing culture that is much different than ours.

As in all travel, the difference is revealed in the detail. Case in point: At lunchtime on a day-off excursion, we saw curtains waving over a small sliding door. Even though this is the Japanese signal for a restaurant that is open, the place was deserted when we walked in. Within moments the mom-and-pop Sushi team arrived, and our culinary adventure began.

How is great sushi like great consulting?

1. II’s custom-made:

Our chef listened to us, even though we spoke a different language. He gave us photos of sushi and invited us to point out what we wanted. He suggested options. And when we reached an agreement, he set out to satisfy our desires. Innovation and delight begin with clear outcomes.

2. It’s fresh:

Whether the contents include cucumber, plum sauce, tuna or eel, great sushi combines only the freshest of ingredients. The result is an extraordinary burst of flavor that satisfies far beyond its size. How can you create this response as a consultant? How can you discover and combine ingredients to fulfill the appetite of your customers?

3. Demonstrate the process:

Have you ever watched the transition from a freshly caught fish into sushi? Our chef worked under our noses, using the sharpest knife we had ever seen to assemble rice, nori (seaweed sheets) cucumber, wasabi, plum sauce and fish into sushi. He was delighted to demonstrate his craft and to instruct his diners.

In our team planning sessions, we weave instructional elements on team performance, collaboration and results in management into the brew. The result: Participants leave with a memorable experience and expanded abilities as well as with a product that they can use immediately.

4. Surprise and delight:

Our sushi session ended with photos all around. We took pictures of our hosts and they took pictures of us. Lunch had somehow become an international learning exchange that yielded much happiness for all involved.