An Educational Guess

In our book, Secrets of Buying Packaging Machinery*, Rich Frain and I discuss gathering information as the first step in any capital project. There are lots of different questions to be asked. Sometimes, especially in the early stages of the project, answers are lacking. We recommend making what we call an “educated guess” in these cases.

I ran across a website that mentioned, in similar circumstances, making an “educational guess”. At first I thought it was a typo but it kept niggling at my mind. Typo or not, it does seem like a useful phrase.

We guess at answers because we don’t know them. In some cases, they may be unknowable such as what the actual sales of a new product will be. In other cases, it may be because the information is not yet available. Perhaps the part or product is still being designed. In still other cases it may be that we don’t have the time to do deep research and make assumptions based on experience and general knowledge.

Sometimes we’ll get it right. Sometimes we will get it nearly right. Other times our guesses will be off by miles. Whatever the result, it will be educational. We will have learned something. That makes it an “educational guess”.

The real question is whether we will have learned something good or something painful. I’ve had enough painful learning experiences over my lifetime and I know I will probably have more. I’ve also learned that I can minimize both the frequency and impact.

There are two keys to minimizing the painful educational experiences:

The more information we have, the earlier we have it and the better it is, the less guessing we will need to do.

Recognize that gathering information is an iterative process. As the project develops, more information will become available. Follow-up constantly and as more and better information comes to light, incorporate it into the project.

Guessing, to fill holes in our knowledge as we go along, is educational. How we do it and how we use our guesses will determine whether it is painful or not.


*Secrets of Buying Packaging Machinery is a useful book for purchasing packaging machinery or any other kind of capital equipment. It is available on Amazon at or can be downloaded as a free PDF at

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