If anyone wants to sail, then they need a real appreciation for the ocean. If they want to go backpacking, they need knowledge of the woods and terrain, and the more accurate the better.
We want to use Google organic search results as one way to market our web businesses, and yet we often have a very unrealistic idea of what, exactly, Google is. And when we operate under false assumptions, sooner or later we can get crushed.
For this reason I work very hard to build a realistic model of what Google is as a business - and what they are not. No kool-aid for me, but no knee-jerk negativity either. Both are distortions and will lead use astray.
I'm currently about 200 pages into a new book called "In The Plex" by Steven Levy, published April 2011. It's good stuff, and I recommend it for anyone who is trying to appreciate what Google is and what they are not.
Google can be very secretive. This is something the book makes clear, as if anyone should ever had any doubts that any business (and especially a tech business) needs to keep some secrets. Especially in the early days, Google hid their rapid growth in size as new data centers were being added. We saw them buying all kinds of fiber networks but we couldn't really see why. The book explains.
The online age itself is disruptive, and within that realm Google itself is quite disruptive. They question every traditional assumption, including what a search engine "should be". They are data driven, and if an innovation tests well, they will go with that. So don't build your business expecting an old-school search engine here. That they will never be.