I'm sure you've heard the Plato's phrase "Necessity is the Mother of Invention".. .
A couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to someone who once again drove this home. His name is Matthew Browning. He's a nurse and founder of a really cool web application service called "Your Nurse is On". Here's his story...
As a senior nurse working in a hospital environment, he found that he was spending an enormous amount of time trying to hunt down other nurses to work shifts to cover for nurses who couldn't work on their scheduled shifts. Apparently, shifting shifts is really common and disruptive in the healthcare field. He would find himself calling one nurse after another to find out if they were interested and available in working the shift in question. The nurses would often be irritated at being bothered on their days off, and had little say over whether or not they would be asked to work the extra shifts.
Finally, Matthew decided to do something about it. He created Your Nurse is On, a web-based service that instantly contacts the right nurses on their preferred devices. Nurses (supply) sign up and indicate all of their expertise, location and communication preferences. Administrators (demand) can simultaneously send out queries to qualified, interested nurses. Simple, elegant, solves one problem REALLY WELL. Matthew found that his own time in trying to schedule was cut from as much as 10 hours a week to about 10 minutes a week. WOW. Now, Matthew is still a nurse, but he's also CEO of a new small business that sells an award-winning SAS application -- Your Nurse is On (YNIO) -- that is helping nurse staffing nationwide. Awesome story.
Anyway... the lesson of Matthew is that focusing on YOUR OWN PROBLEMS is often one of the very best ways to have deep customer empathy and devise great solutions that really delight.