An interesting article by Jared Spool about when good things can happen without user research. He talks about successful applications (it applies to websites too) where the target audience was the same as the people doing the development.
This might sound like a get out of jail free card (a usable end product without the hassle of research), but what really struck a chord with me was what 37signals developers did. They may not have done any user research but what they did do was cover support calls on a rota basis.
So while they developed applications for people like themselves, they gained understanding of and empathy with their end users by dealing directly with their problems and gripes and suggestions. Usually, usability experts like Jared Spool are talking about usability testing and personas and so on to gain this understanding and empathy.
It has particular resonance for me because of the way development works at the University - the development team and the technical support team and the user support team are pretty much separate and have little responsibility to each other.
I'm in the fortunate (do I mean fortunate?) position of providing user support, while feeding into technical support priorities and working alongside the development team. Hopefully some empathy and understanding with the end users of our content management system is filtering through...
Actually, You Might Be Your User by article by Jared Spool