Some people find themselves in hell... and build ladders
"Would BSD Unix have had the same impact in the 1980s and 1990s if the university computer center had supported it rather than the computer-science department letting its grad students take ownership of the operations problem?"
There are users and then there are those others, well, "... all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
If the students had been forced to be 'users', then much less would have been accomplished, invented. Here's a fishhook and some string, figure out what you can do with them.
"... an opportunity to manage systems that deliver services to actual users is a great source of systems research problems, as well as fertile ground for platform innovations."
And maturity, and responsibility, and insights into what a product must be to be useful.
Unfortunately, too many developers are really just users. For many of the rest of us, fulfilling a need of others fulfils a need of our own. (sic itur ad astra ?)