To stay ahead of the curve, business leaders must take advantage of every resource at their disposal, and many are looking outside the walls of their organization for new ways to spark the flame of innovation for the next big idea.

In a collaborative economy, it is only normal that increasingly, many  organizations  in payments  and other industries are hosting or sponsoring hackathons to aid in their search for innovative opportunities. Hackathons are no longer thought of exclusively as sleepless weekends fueled by energy drinks and pizza in a dorm room.

Hackathons are evolving into a powerful way to tap into a global poll of developer talent and creativity that can lead to the next breakthrough idea for a company at a faster pace. Technology companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have long used hackathons to promote internal innovation and creative problem solving and major hackathon events like TechCrunch Disrupt or local hackathons held in high school gyms are proving that innovation can happen anywhere.

Hackathons provide a great venue for ideation. Having a room full of developers, designers, entrepreneurs, artists and more working within a marathon style timeframe, collaborating together and competing with each other, is a surefire way to spark ideas and foster innovation. Countless start-ups have been born from hackathons along with famous product innovations such as the Facebook Like button.

For new products and services, hackathons can supply the fresh, out-of-the-box thinking that you simply cannot get from your internal networks that many times can be too limited in vision because of how close they are to the business, the existing products, and the customers.

Hackathons are also a great remedy to help internal teams better understand their own products and  how developers use and view them. Encouraging employees to participate as a team or as a mentor demonstrates the commitment of a company in not shying away from reaching out to an extraordinary poll of talents inside and outside the company.

Indeed, in addition to coming up with new products and services, hackathons can also connect your organization to the best talent that’s available. Coders are the master artisans of today’s digital world. Like master builders of years past, they architect and create the very structure of which our digital world exists on.

However, unlike artisans of old who were honored with a seal in recognition of their talents, there is no identity seal showcasing the quality of developers, their rank amongst peers or even their trials and accomplishments. Hackathons provide the field of competition to distinguish the standout players so companies can find and engage with the very best talent. As companies look for new ways to reach talent through non-traditional HR channels, Hackathons are a great way of drawing out local talent that otherwise would stay under your recruiting radar.

With the demand for qualified developers at an all-time high, hackathons provide a testing ground to vet candidates for immediate consideration. Hackathons also serve as a way to elevate your brands reputation in the developer community which can help with inbound inquiries for recruitment.

Hackathons are not just great resources for companies, they also provide a great environment for coders to build and test their skill set while making invaluable networking connections. Participants get real-time feedback, mentoring, business advice and in some cases seed money to get a worthwhile project off the ground.  Whether participants win or lose, they have a lot of fun, gain experience and walk away having built something new to the world. Hackathons are going mainstream and now is a great time for companies to evaluate the opportunities that they can offer.

Sebastien Taveau is chief developer evangelist for MasterCard Open API