Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking
Convergent thinking is the practice of solving a problem for which there is only one right answer. It's like a spotlight searching for a target in the dark.
Often, though, there are many right answers, which is where divergent thinking comes in. Like a floodlight illuminating as much of the world as possible, divergent thinking seeks to gather as many answers as possible.
Thomas Edison famously said. “I am quite correctly described as 'more of a sponge than an inventor." He understood that the world is messy, and that by following your curiosity — by practicing divergent thinking — you'd have a better chance of finding the right answer.
So, cast a wide net before trying to converge on a solution. You might just figure out how to make light bulbs technically and commercially viable.
Via The Atlantic. Further reading: "Who really invented the light bulb?" from Science Focus, and the excellent book How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson