There’s a great line in a recent exploration of near-future UX issues. It goes:
Design is about solving problems. And deciding how to solve a problem is the first design problem to be solved.
I like this report, but I want to offer a different perspective here. Deciding how to solve a problem could in some cases be the first problem. However, this overlooks the crucial step of assessing and setting, or re-setting, the problem itself. You have to determine whether the problem you’ve been given is the right problem. On the other hand, it might be up to you to set the problem based on an ambiguous design brief. In these cases, figuring out how to solve the problem only happens once you’ve settled on what the problem really is, and then this cycle of problem-setting, devising approach(es) to solve it, and generating concepts and knowledge repeats until you reach your deadline.