Contrasting examples of unlearning from Apple

examples of unlearningUnlearning is crucial for change, both personal and organizational. Here are two examples of unlearning from the Apple ecosystem: one successful, and one not.

#1 The Apple Watch Workouts app

In 2017, I purchased an Apple Watch. It has improved my life in many ways. In particular, it’s become an essential tool for supporting my desire to exercise daily. The watch’s Workout app tracks my exercise. All I need to do is to tell it what kind of exercise I’m about to start, and leave the app running until the exercise is over.

To pick the right exercise, the watch shows a scrollable list. Here’s what I saw today when I tapped the app:

examples of unlearning Right now I’m living at home, and the two workouts I do most often are my daily outdoor run and yoga. So it’s convenient that these options are the first two I see.

This happens because the Workout app learns over time which workouts I use and, to quote from Apple support: “As you use the Workout app over time, the order of workouts is changed automatically to reflect your usage.

The Workout app learns my preferences, and adjusts its display to show me the most likely workouts first.

My environment changes

Almost every year, I vacation in Anguilla, typically for three weeks. My exercise program there is different. I don’t run (it’s too hot for me!) but I walk daily, followed by a pool swim.

After a few days, the Workout app unlearns my most common home-based exercises and relearns my new routine, replacing the top two items on the Workouts list with the Outdoor Walk and Pool Swim choices.

For the remainder of my vacation, these two options stay at the top of the list.

Alas, all good things come to an end. On returning home, the Workout app unlearns my Anguilla routine and relearns my home routine.

And if my exercise regime changes over time, due to circumstances or location, the Workout app will continue to use its learn-unlearn-relearn routine to display the most likely choices first.

I’m sure that Apple has incorporated other examples of unlearning into its products, but this is one I’ve noticed. Small thoughtful touches like this have helped Apple products and services become market leaders in a very competitive industry.

#2 Apple Mail

Apple doesn’t always get things right, unfortunately. Apple’s Mail program provides a classic example of what happens when unlearning is not an option.

Apple Mail allows you to file messages in folders, a useful way for me to organize the 94,000 emails I currently store. Trying to be helpful, the program learns where you tend to store specific kinds of messages, and after a while, right-clicking a message will pop up an option to move it to the “learned” preferred folder.

This is a generally helpful feature — except…

Once Apple Mail has “learned” where to file an email, it won’t unlearn that choice!

Furthermore, there’s no way to manually reset Apple Mail’s choice!

For example, let’s say you’ve been working with Marce, a client’s employee, for some time, so you’ve been moving Marce’s emails to a folder for that client. After a while Apple Mail helpfully offers to move emails from Marce to that client folder. So far, so good. Then Marce moves to a new company, and you continue to work with them. Now you’d like to file Marce’s emails in a separate folder for the new client. Unfortunately, no matter how many times you manually file Marce’s emails in the new client’s folder, Apple Mail will forever continue to suggest moving them to the former employer folder!

You will have to move email from Marce to the new employee folder manually every time, remembering every time not to choose the (wrong) default Apple Mail continues to suggest.

This is a drag, and a product flaw.

It surprises me that the Watch software incorporates learn-unlearn-relearn into its memory-limited program space, but Apple Mail on the desktop, where program size is not an issue, only includes the learn piece.

Organizational unlearning

I’ll conclude with a few observations about the wider value of unlearning in organizations.

Most organizations need to innovate constantly, due to changing circumstances. Innovation doesn’t just involve coming up with new ideas. Innovation also requires a willingness and ability to cannibalize or destroy existing products or services; i.e. to unlearn what used to work, and relearn what is now relevant.

Building and supporting an organizational culture that incorporates learn-unlearn-relearn is, thus, essential for the organization’s continued relevance and survival. Kodak was unable to unlearn that film was no longer a viable market for the size the company had become, or relearn how to switch to a digital imaging world. Apple, on the other hand, maker of the iPod, the most successful music player, poured energy into the development of the iPhone, a whole new product area that, while eventually cannibalizing Apple’s iPod sales, made far greater profits than if Apple had stayed with what they first built.

Do you build learn-unlearn-relearn into your personal and professional life? Share your story in the comments below!

 

How to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step

How to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one stepHere’s how to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step. Yes, there is a way to delete all your unwanted iPhone/iPad emails from the Mail app in one step! No more left-swipe:tap Trash for every individual message. No more Edit: tap the single open circle next to every individual message and finally tapping Trash. And you don’t need to jail break your device.

If you leave your iDevice on for a few days and come back to find a few hundred messages on it that you’ve already downloaded elsewhere this trick will save you time and irritation. I didn’t discover the method—it’s far from obvious—but found it on one of many Apple discussion threads bemoaning this irritating hole in Mail functionality.

Updates

GOOD NEWS UPDATE [added October 3, 2015] IOS 9.0.2 finally displays a “Trash All” button after Edit is pressed! If your phone won’t handle 9.0.2, the following procedure is often successful; read the comments for a detailed description of hundreds of people’s successes and failures.

BAD NEWS UPDATE [added September 25, 2016] IOS 10 has removed the “Trash All” button. Who knows why? The procedure listed below (the original 2014 post) still works for many people.

GOOD NEWS UPDATE [added January 5, 2020] IOS 13.3 allows you to “Select All” your emails and then touch “Trash” to delete all selected emails! If your phone can’t be updated to this IOS version, the following procedure is often successful; read the comments for a detailed description of hundreds of people’s successes and failures.


It works! I present to you this great tip from shashbasharat found on MacRumors (slightly edited for clarity).

How to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step

How to delete or move ALL emails at once in non-jail broken ipad or iphone

It took me weeks of research to figure out finally how to decode this yet another secretive secret of apple. There is a perfect way of deleting ALL emails at once without jailbreaking your iphone or ipad…and here it is:

  1. If any of your messages are marked as unread: Open Inbox >> Edit >> Mark All >> Mark As Read [added May 21, 2014 by Adrian; this extra step makes the difference between success & failure for some.]
  2. Open Inbox >> Edit >> Check/select the top message; it will highlight the Move button.
  3. Press and hold the move button and, keeping your finger on the Move button, use another finger to uncheck the message that you had checked earlier.
  4. Lift all your fingers off from the iDevice screen and leave it alone. Wait until all your messages pile up on the right hand portion of the screen (in ipad); iphone will give you the actual number of emails it has selected for the action.
  5. Choose trash to delete all of them or any other folder where you want to move them. Remember this will replicate your action on the server so you will ACTUALLY move them or delete them on the server and not just the iDevice.
  6. After moving all messages to the trash you can leave them there for the scheduled cleaning or empty it right away. To empty immediately go to the trash folder and touch Edit. The Delete All button shows up at the bottom of the screen. Hit it! You’re done!
  7. If you do not see the effects of your actions on the server make sure you have enabled your email accounts for such actions.

Tips

  1. Allow enough time (could take several minutes depending the number of emails to be moved) for selecting the emails to move. Your screen may be unresponsive for a while. On an iPad you will see them zoomed out on the right hand side of the screen. On an iphone you will see a message showing you the actual number of messages selected.
  2. Avoid purging very large number of emails, the mail app might freeze or crash. If your inbox has thousands of emails change your sync settings to store less emails in your inbox.
  3. [Added Jul 20, 2014 by Adrian] Many people have reported needing to repeat the above procedure several times before it succeeds. (I too have found this to be necessary a few times on my iPhone but not on my iPad—go figure.) So my final tip is to repeat the procedure 3-4 times if the mail doesn’t disappear the first time. In my experience, if your messages disappear momentarily and then reappear, repeating the procedure will eventually make them stay deleted for good.

That’s how to delete ALL mail messages from iPhone/iPad in one step!