One of my favorite authors, Charles Duhigg (he wrote "The Power of Habit"), just published his new book "Smarter Faster Better."
I haven't read it yet (it's on my list), but I have some thoughts on the subject based upon my own experience and observation:
1. To become smarter, cultivate your ox mind.
In the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, each person is believed to have two minds. Your monkey mind chatters aimlessly away in an endless internal dialog while your ox mind focuses on the current moment and the next step.
The monkey mind is clever (and sometimes "too clever by half) but it's easily distracted. The ox mind, by contrast, is has the wisdom to think things through, slowly and surely.
For example, I have met and known many clever executives who have agile monkey minds. However, they are always outmaneuvered by CEOs like Steve Jobs who use meditation to create the mindfulness to do the right thing at the right time.
2. To execute faster, do it right the first time.
Creating and delivering a high quality product or service takes more time than creating and developing something slipshod. It may seem "faster" at the time to use shortcuts and hacks, eventually these create problems that cause further delay.
The sorry state of business software is a perfect case in point. Many companies, driven by artificial financial deadlines, release products that are full of bugs and need constant fixing and patching.
By contrast, the game developer Blizzard is just famous for delaying products until they were fully tested and stable. As a result, their game franchises (Starcraft, Diablo, and Warcraft) are by far the most successful in the entire industry.
3. To become better, create more happiness.
Most companies measure "better" in terms of the bottom line. A "better" company, "better" manager or "better" product is the one that generates the most profit. This is like driving a car while looking in the rearview mirror.
Companies make more money when they make their customers happier. The world's best brands are built that fact, which is why they can charge more for their products than their weaker competition.
Companies that make their employees miserable seldom have happy customers. By contrast, companies where employees who have genuine (not forced) happiness are a joy to work with, and to buy from. So create more happiness at work!