The underlined sentence seems odd to me. Can you explain it both grammatically and semantically?

In business, there is a speed difference: It's the difference between how important a firms leaders say speed is to their competitive strategy and how fast the company actually moves. The difference is important regardless of industry and company size .Companies fearful of losing their competitive advantage spend much time and money looking for ways to pick up the speed.

In our study of 343 businesses, the companies that choose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge ended up with lower sales and operating incomes than those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track, What’s more, the firms that “slowed down to speed up “improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating incomes over a three-year period.

How did they disobey the laws of business physics, taking more time than competitors yet performing better? They thought differently about what “slower” and “faster” mean. Firms sometimes fail to understand the difference between operation speed (moving quickly )and strategic speed (reducing the time it takes to deliver value ).Simply increasing the speed of production, for example ,may be one way to try to reduce the speed difference .But that often leads to reduced value over time, in the form of lower-quality products and services.

In our study, higher-performing companies with strategic speed always made changes when necessary. They became more open to ideas and discussion. They encouraged new ways of thinking. And they allowed time to look back and learn. By contrast, performance suffered at firms that moved fast all the time, paid too much attention to improving efficiency, stuck to tested methods, didn’t develop team spirit among their employees, and had little time thinking about changes.

Strategic speed serves as a kind of leadership. Teams that regularly take time to get things right , rather than plough ahead full bore , are more successful in meeting their business goals . That kind of strategy must come from the top.
How did they disobey the laws of business physics, taking more time than competitors yet performing better?-- 'Business physics' is a jocular coinage. It is part of the bizspeak in this passage. There is no 'law of business physics'. What the writer is saying is that in some unusual sense the company was slower but better – and he goes on to explain in the succeeding text.
Let's design a question:

The underlined part “the laws of business physics” in Paragraph 3 means _________.

A. spending more time and performing worse.

B. spending less time and performing better

Can we choose B?
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Both are right.
But this is a question from the 2011 National Martriculation English Test (Sichuan Province,China) , and the answer is:

"spending less time and performing better:

http://www.nmg.xinhuanet.com/zt/2011-06/08/content_22963594.htm

I feel the key is how to understand "taking more time". Does it mean "spending more time"?
Why am I not surprised? I would expect a Chinese English exam to get things wong on occasion.

Yes, 'taking more time' = 'spending more time' = .consuming more time'. Obviously if the 'law' states that 'spending less time and performing better' is good, then it also states that 'spending more time and performing worse' is bad: both sides of the law are true, just as the law of physics states that objects lighter than water float and objects heavier than water sink.
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Your wonderful metaphor has made it clearer to me. But I have some more questions in understanding the sentence:

1.I feel "taking more time than competitors yet performing better" is the appositive of "the laws of business physics". Am I right?

2.What does "they" refer to? Does it refer to "the companies that choose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge " or " those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track"?

3.If one "takes more time than competitors", he naturally "performs better". Why does the author use "yet"?
1.I feel "taking more time than competitors yet performing better" is the appositive of "the laws of business physics". Am I right?-- No; it is the appositive of 'disobey the laws of business physics'.

2.What does "they" refer to? Does it refer to "the companies that choose to go, go, go to try to gain an edge " or " those that paused at key moments to make sure they were on the right track"?-- The latter.

3.If one "takes more time than competitors", he naturally "performs better". Why does the author use "yet"?-- No. The law is 'take less time and perform better': that is how to beat a competitor.