Terrorist Innovation

Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Adam Dolnik


Combating Transnational Terrorism, Procon, Sofia, p.49-66 (2016)


Innovation is defined here as “the introduction of a new method or technology, or the improvement of an already existing capability.” Generally speaking, terrorist innovation falls into the realm of emulation and adaptation, since the technologies used by terrorists are never completely new. Terrorists have effectively engaged in ‘evolutionary innovation’ (i.e. incremental) as opposed to ‘revolutionary’ (i.e. radical) innovation. This chapter begins with some observations about the general trends in tactical and technological innovation in terrorist campaigns, followed by a discussion of the reasons why different terrorist organizations display varying levels of innovation. In particular, four key scenarios which may act as triggers for terrorist innovation are identified, and these are then considered using the ‘Islamic State’ (IS) as a case study.