Exploratory testing is an approach in software testing that is concisely described as simultaneous learning, test design and test execution. Cem Kaner, who coined the term in 1983, now defines exploratory testing as "a style of software testing that emphasizes the personal freedom and responsibility of the individual tester to continually optimize the quality of his/her work by treating test-related learning, test design, test execution, and test result interpretation as mutually supportive activities that run in parallel throughout the project.".
While the software is being tested, the tester learns things that together with experience and creativity generates new good tests to run. Exploratory testing often thought of as a black box testing technique. Instead, those who have studied it consider it a test approach that can be applied to any test technique, at any stage in the development process. The key is not the test technique nor the item being tested or reviewed; the key is the cognitive engagement of the tester, and the tester's responsibility for managing his or her time.
Google Tech Talks
March 16, 2006